Vacaville barbershop owner faces state hearing for refusing to close during pandemic

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VACAVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) – A Vacaville barbershop owner could be facing a suspended business license after refusing to close during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What’s started off as a 15-day closure has turned into a seven-month hostage. I’m just not going to be bullied,” said Juan Desmarais, owner of Primo’s Barbershop, during the spring of 2020.

Desmarais never closed his barbershop in downtown Vacaville, even when Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered businesses to close in the early days of COVID-19.

He told FOX40 he needed to stay open in order for him to survive and his workers to keep feeding their families.

On Monday, the state attorney general notified Desmarais that a hearing had been scheduled for Oct. 23, when a state judge will oversee an administrative hearing that could result in his license being suspended.

He said the state received about 33 letters of complaints, none of which were from patrons.

“‘Why does this guy get to stay open? We don’t get to stay open.’ ‘Hey, this guy’s cutting during your order. Why aren’t you doing anything about it?’” Desmarais explained.

Support for Primo’s Barbershop is gaining momentum.

“It is time to open California and Primo, you know, he led the charge saying that businesses are the ones that generate the revenue,” said Vacaville resident Michele Guerra. “They’re the ones that hire the people. They’re the ones that are the backbone of our state. He just took a stand and, of course, he’s a hero.”

Jinnie Zimmerman Yarwood created a Facebook group, Patriots for Primo’s, supporting Desmarais’ reasons for staying open. With more than 600 members, they told FOX40 that they plan on holding a rally on Saturday in front of City Hall to show their support.

“Give small business owners a break,” Zimmerman explained. “It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to punish a small business owner while people like Gov. Newsom gets to keep his winery open.”

“You would hope that during these unprecedented times, they would realize that there’s no real laws or orders,” Desmarais said. “I’ve never been hiding. I’m not going to hide. If we get shut down again, I’m going to stay open.” 

Desmarais has started a GoFundMe page.

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