STONINGTON — A Pawcatuck stylist who opened her barbershop for business Wednesday morning despite being in violation of state COVID-19 business regulations set by Gov. Ned Lamont has been closed by order of the health district.
Staff with the Ledge Light Health District ordered Modern Barber and Shave, located on West Broad Street, to close Thursday afternoon. The district said in a press release late Wednesday that the decision was made in the interest of public health and safety.
“Our primary responsibility is to protect the public health and assure, to the extent possible, that all possible measures to prevent the spread of disease are being taken in each situation,” said Stephen Mansfield, director of health for the Ledge Light Health District.
Cat Thibodeau, owner of Modern Barber and Shave, said in a phone interview Tuesday that reopening was not a decision she took lightly. She had complied with the governor's orders, including working the past two weeks and spending money to make sure her shop met all recommended guidelines, only to learn Monday evening that Lamont had changed the order and that her shop would remain closed for a few more weeks.
The shop, which has been in business for six years, had taken a considerable financial hit as a result of the lost business over the past two months, and Thibodeau said she feared that remaining closed for several more weeks could leave her in a position where she may need to consider closing.
Thibodeau, who is self-employed, said she had been prepared to implement numerous safety measures, including serving customers one at a time by appointment only, cleaning thoroughly in between each customer and working by herself to prevent any chance of a crowd.
"We have been working toward this for weeks, so to change the plan with less than 48 hours notice isn't fair, especially when all the numbers I've seen show that we are over the curve," said Thibodeau.
According to the press release, the district reached out to state officials after learning she would reopen and staff conducted a "courtesy inspection" while waiting to hear back from the state.
It was later determined after consulting with the Connecticut Department of Health and state officials that Ledge Light was the entity responsible for enforcing Lamont's executive order. The district announced that, as a result, it would issue an order for Modern Barber to close.
If any other businesses violate the governor's executive orders, health district officials said they would issue further closure orders as necessary.
Stonington First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough praised the district for ensuring the safety of the public and said she encourages everyone, resident or business owner, to follow the guidelines.
“Many of us share in the frustration of business owners and non-profit organizations looking to get back on their feet; however, with the clarification received today from the state, the health district is now doing what is being required of them," she said. "We ask residents, businesses and organizations for their continued patience and civility during this challenging time.”