Column: Salon owner gets tangled in licensing laws
The state of Michigan issued a cease-and-desist order to a Garden City hair braiding shop last year because the owner didn’t have a license to shampoo hair.
Michigan law requires establishments that provide various haircare services such as hair cleansing to have a state-issued cosmetology license, which takes 1,500 hours of training, hundreds of dollars and an exam. Licenses for braiding hair are optional.
Paul Avelar, an attorney for the nonprofit law firm Institute for Justice which represents hair braiders nationwide, said occupational licenses like the one required for shampooing are often abused by licensed businesses to fight competition.
“Most of these complaints come from paperwork violations, not from actually harming someone,” Avelar said. “Licenses aren’t being used to protect the public, but being used to protect the turf of the licensed occupations.”
Licensing requirements are occasionally repealed, however. In 2017, for example, the Tennessee Legislature repealed the state’s shampoo licensing requirement after the Beacon Center, a free-market think tank in Tennessee, filed a lawsuit against the state licensing board on behalf of a woman looking to earn extra income at her friend’s salon.
The owner of Barbee & Bean Hair Design filed a complaint with the Michigan licensing department in March 2016 about Blanca’s Braids. The hair braiding establishment, a neighboring and rival business, did not have a license to shampoo hair, according to documents obtained through an open records request.
“Why should I go through all the hoops of taking all of the classes and making sure my things are straight if she can just go straight to the front of the line?” asked former Barbee Bean co-owner Tracy Barbee.
Barbee said in a letter to the state that Ntcharba Chabi, the owner of Blanca’s Braids, shouldn’t be able to operate her hair-braiding shop without a cosmetology license because her business had a shampoo bowl. In addition to braiding and washing hair, Blanca’s Braids would straighten the hair of customers.
An applicant seeking a cosmetology license must be at least 17 years old and have a ninth-grade education. The applicant must also have at least 1,500 hours of study at a licensed school of cosmetology or serve as an apprentice for more than two years in a licensed cosmetology establishment.
An investigator from the enforcement division of the licensing department interviewed Chabi in July 2015. In August, Chabi received a cease-and-desist order, which faulted her for “providing cosmetology services without possessing a cosmetology license.”
The order informed her that by operating a hair braiding shop without a cosmetology license, she had committed a misdemeanor, punishable by $500 and 90 days in jail. If she is caught operating without a license again, she could be fined $1,000 or sentenced to one year in jail.
In the time since Blanca’s Braids received the cease-and-desist order, it has continued to operate. Barbee closed Barbee & Bean Hair Design, opening a cosmetology establishment in a different part of Garden City.
Blanca’s Braids has a 4.8-star rating on Google with 32 reviews.
When asked why a shop needs a license to shampoo hair, Jason Moon, communications director at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, said state law defines activities that require a cosmetology license. Moon’s department is the state agency that enforces licensing laws.
Evan Carter is a reporter at Michigan Capitol Confidential, where this piece first appeared. It is reprinted with permission.