Barbering blue laws snipped

New York’s blue laws were snipped Tuesday, repealing an antiquated policy that prevented barbers and hair salons from operating on Sundays. Michael Bonner photo

They just needed a trim.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday repealing state blue laws that prohibited New York barbers from cutting hair on Sundays.

The antiquated blue laws, which were rarely enforced, remained on the state’s books until Tuesday mandating a person cutting hair or providing a shave to another person on a Sunday a criminal misdemeanor.

Violators could face $5 fines for their first offense. A second offense could have led to a $25 fine and possibly 25 days in jail.

Connie Johnston, who co-owns Watertown’s Sportsman’s Barber Shop with her husband, Tom, first worked at a barber shop in 1990 near Fort Drum where they cut hair Sundays.

“I wish I had known — it would have been nice to say, ‘No, I can’t work, it’s against the law,’” Johnston said with a laugh Tuesday. “I’m sure the owners knew it.”

Sportsman’s Barbershop, at 310 State St., has never been open Sundays. The Johnstons have owned the local business for 11 years.

Many barbers and hairstylists were unaware of the state rule.

“I was not even aware of the law until today when they said the law was removed,” Johnston said. “I asked some of my other girls, we didn’t even know there was a law.”

The repeal will not change the shop’s traditional Sunday closure, she added.

“This is the very definition of an archaic and meaningless law that makes little to no sense in the 21st century,” Cuomo said in a statement Tuesday. “While not routinely enforced, I’m more than happy to sign this repeal into law and allow these businesses to determine what days they choose to operate.”

The change took effect immediately.

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, and Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Joe Griffo, R-Rome, sponsored the bill, and said they thought the policy’s reversal could benefit the personal service industry that struggled to stay afloat over the last 16 months.

Joe Canzoneri opened Canzoneri’s Barbershop, 466 Ellicott St., Batavia, on March 15, 2020. The shop was open for three days before the statewide shutdown of nonessential businesses closed his doors.

Canzoneri cut hair in Buffalo for nine years before coming to the GLOW region before the pandemic.

“I’ve never worked on a Sunday,” he said. “It was always a traditional day off for barbers.

“I had no idea, ever, about the Sunday law,” the owner added. “It was always a day I figured that was a family day.”

Canzoneri’s is also closed Sundays, and it will stay that way regardless of the repeal.

“If there was a demand, I’d reconsider,” Canzoneri said. “I don’t know if there’s really a market for it.

“...Honestly, ever since the pandemic [slowed], it’s been full force, and we’ve been doing really, really well.”

Jones noted how the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted barbers and hairdressers in a statement Tuesday.

“From having to close their doors during the early months of the pandemic to adopting enhanced safety measures, hairstylists have faced unprecedented challenges to continue serving our communities,” Jones said. “While the prohibition on barbering on Sundays is loosely enforced, I spearheaded this legislation to ensure the decision to be open lies in the hands of the business owner and not an unnecessary and outdated state law. Now that the executive has signed this into law, barbershops and hairdressers across the North Country, and New York, will be able to freely operate on Sundays.”

Griffo agreed any measure to help small business is a good step for the state.

“Barbershops and salons, like all small businesses, have faced significant, unprecedented and strenuous challenges during the coronavirus pandemic,” Griffo said. “By removing outdated and unnecessary laws such as this, these businesses will be provided with an additional opportunity to recover financially as we work to rebuild our local and state economies.”

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