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Pawcatuck barber will wait to reopen after injunction denied

Stonington — A Pawcatuck barber shop owner said Wednesday that she does not plan to reopen until June 1 because a Superior Court judge denied an emergency injunction that would have allowed her to continue operating.

Cat Thibodeau said it is also likely her lawsuit against the state Department of Health and the Ledge Light Health District would not be heard until after the COVID-19 pandemic is over because of the reduced operation of the state court system.

Thibodeau said she will wait to reopen Modern Barber & Shave until next week, when barbers and hair salons can reopen, according to the state’s phased reopening plan.

“So it didn’t make sense to reopen with four days left,” she said. “All my appointments are full so I will be ready to go on the 1st.”

Thibodeau opened her shop on May 20, defying an 11th hour executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont that prohibited barber shops and salons from opening.

After allowing her to operate on May 20, citing confusion about the intent of Lamont’s executive order, Ledge Light Health District then ordered Thibodeau not to operate on May 21. She refused to comply, her lawyers filed the lawsuit, and last Saturday her supporters rallied in the rain outside her shop as she cut hair inside.

Meanwhile, Stonington police and Ledge Light were in discussions with the New London State’s Attorney Office about enforcing the order.

That did not occur this week, as Thibodeau did not reopen as she had planned to do on Wednesday after being closed for the holiday weekend.

She has said she needed to reopen to keep her 6-year-old business afloat and had spent $5,000 on gloves, masks, sanitizer and cleaning materials, as well as software for an online booking system. She is allowing only one customer at a time into her shop.

Barber shops originally had been on the list of businesses that could reopen on May 20 with a long list of requirements to protect employees and customers. But 36 hours before the reopening, Lamont changed his mind, saying barber shops and hair salons had to stay closed until early June, so the state would be in line with the schedule being used in Rhode Island.

He also had been urged by some salon owners across the state to delay the reopening date because they were not ready to reopen or their employees had concerns about returning to work, including how to provide child care and home schooling. Thibodeau had complained that the governor had not even given shop owners 48 hours’ notice after she had worked for weeks to get ready to reopen and was booked solid into June.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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