The grievance got here in final month from a resident of Kingston, a metropolis in New York’s Hudson Valley: A neighborhood barbershop was nonetheless performing haircuts, in violation of New York’s emergency shutdown orders to thwart the coronavirus.
Two days later, a buildings investigator went out to research the declare. La Lima Barbershop at 678 Broadway was darkish.
Three extra visits, on April 13, 17, and 19 turned up the identical outcome: “Appears to be closed,” the inspector wrote on every type.
The grievance was left unresolved till this week, when the proprietor of the store, Joseph LaLima, was hospitalized for the coronavirus, setting off a furor in the Ulster County metropolis, about 90 miles north of New York City.
Mr. LaLima had by no means stopped slicing hair, regardless of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s order. But he was not doing it in his store; he was doing in the privateness of his house — in the again of the store.
“He said do not open up your shops, barbershops, beauty parlors, nail salons, tattoo parlors,” Mr. LaLima stated on Friday, referring to the governor. “So I didn’t.”
Mr. LaLima, who spoke simply after his launch from a four-day hospitalization, started to get agitated. “It said you can work from home,” he stated. “678 Broadway is my home!”
But in response to state officers, Mr. LaLima’s interpretation of the order doesn’t sq. with its precise textual content. The March 21 rule didn’t simply order the closure of the bodily areas the place companies like manicures and haircuts are carried out; it required companies like nail-painting and buzz cuts to stop utterly.
“These services cannot be provided while maintaining social distance,” the order reads.
In his day by day briefing on Friday, Gov. Cuomo denounced Mr. LaLima’s actions with out naming him. “You know that is an occupation of close proximity, right? You can’t really socially distance and do a haircut,” the governor stated. “That is by definition an up close and personal occupation.”
Just a few hours after leaving the hospital, Mr. LaLima railed in opposition to the governor. He stated he had accomplished no unsuitable, and was merely attempting to make a residing.
“I am aggravated to the nines,” Mr. LaLima stated. “Is Cuomo going to pay me? Is he going to make up the difference? Is he going to pay my taxes? Is he going to pay the heat and electric? Is he going to feed my family?” he requested.
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, was unmoved by Mr. LaLima’s protection. “There is no excuse to be reckless in a pandemic,” he stated.
The coronavirus has killed 64 individuals in Ulster County, and greater than 1,500 individuals have been contaminated. Eleven individuals are at present hospitalized in the county, and well being officers worry that a few of Mr. LaLima’s purchasers could also be subsequent.
Some of the county’s 55 illness investigators at the moment are attempting to hint these prospects. According to the barber, a lot of his purchasers had been law enforcement officials and firefighters, whose hair he lower at no cost.
“I did them a favor!” Mr. LaLima stated. “And I didn’t give it to anybody else. I got it from somebody that came into my shop.”
The Ulster County district legal professional’s workplace sees the matter otherwise: It has launched an investigation into whether or not Mr. LaLima violated public well being legal guidelines, a felony offense, and whether or not any of his purchasers might face penalties.
“This kind of flouting of the rules is unacceptable, and it puts lives in danger,” stated Patrick Ok. Ryan, the Ulster county government. “We are taking it very seriously.”
The information of a bootleg barber first unfold by way of a public message despatched on Wednesday by the Ulster County Health Department, which urged anybody whose hair had been lower at “a barbershop on Broadway” to name their physician and be examined for the virus.
“We are taking extraordinary measures to try and minimize the spread of this dangerous disease,” Dr. Carol Smith, the Ulster County well being commissioner, stated in a press release. “Learning that a barbershop has been operating illicitly for weeks with a Covid-19 positive employee is extraordinarily disheartening.”
Until Mr. LaLima went public along with his id on Friday, at the very least three native barbers whose retailers are additionally on Broadway stated they confronted a barrage of indignant calls and messages from individuals suspicious that they could have been the perpetrator.
“He put the people in danger,” stated Mostafa Oukili, who owns Mostafa’s Broadway Barbershop, which he closed in early March, earlier than the necessary order, as a result of he stated his spouse is a most cancers survivor and he feared that she would possibly change into contaminated. “You can’t work six feet away as a barber.”
Mr. LaLima has been working the barbershop on Broadway since 1975, when he transformed a kids’s bicycle retailer that he had purchased the yr earlier than for $12,000, in response to a 2013 article. A motorcycle aficionado and Vietnam veteran, he said he has been cutting hair since he returned from military service in 1968.
Mr. LaLima is not the only hairdressing scofflaw. This week, Karl Manke, 77, a barber in Owosso, Mich., had his business and professional licenses suspended after he reopened his shop in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order. Despite the suspension of his licenses, he said he planned to keep cutting hair.
Mr. LaLima was similarly disposed. He said he was feeling well and ready to cut hair as soon as possible. “I think the people that are up in arms are idiots,” he said.
Jesse McKinley contributed reporting from Albany, N.Y.