By Paul Liberatore The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Should beer and wine be allowed inside salons? While businesses have been serving for years, in California, it is illegal. A new bill would legalize this unspoken industry tradition. However, not everyone is on board. Recent protests included folks carrying signs like "Alcohol belongs in saloons, not salons," "No buzzed cuts," "Cut my hair not my liver" and "Blow dry and DUI."
The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.
When entrepreneur Ed Lasseter opened his hip new men's hair salon in San Rafael in May, he made sure it had all the necessary supplies -- shampoos, towel warmers, blow dryers, a keg of beer.
One of the "upscale men's services" at his 18/8 Fine Men's Salon -- a local franchise that's part of a national chain -- is a complimentary glass of tap beer for customers to sip while they're being snipped.
"Serving alcohol is part of our business model, either on tap or in bottles," Lasseter said. "It's to improve the atmosphere and make the customer feel a little special."
Although it's been a longstanding custom for beauty salons and barbershops to serve free glasses of wine or beer to their customers, it's technically against the law without a license from the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
A controversial new bill -- AB 1322 -- would legalize this unspoken industry tradition. With strong support from 18/8 Fine Men's Salons and from Drybar, a national chain of trendy blow-dry salons, the measure, aka the Drybar bill, sailed through the California Legislature and is now waiting for Gov. Jerry Brown to veto it or sign it into law.
San Rafael-based Alcohol Justice, formerly the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, has been active and vocal in its opposition, urging the governor to say no to barbershop booze.
Public Affairs Director Michael Scippa calls the paucity of legislators against the bill "government under the influence."
He says it would allow 42,000 beauty salons and barbershops in California to legally serve alcoholic drinks. That's 41 percent more places to drink than before. Alcohol Justice is certain it would add to the reported $22 billion in harm that alcohol causes and the 10,000 alcohol-related deaths every year in California.
"They (legislators) don't seem to grasp that the level of harm the state suffers already from alcohol is going to increase beyond a doubt if we allow 42,000 establishments to serve alcohol without ABC oversight, without a license, without properly training licensed beauticians to become bartenders," he said. "It's one of the most irresponsible pieces of legislation to reduce or weaken alcohol policy in this state that I've seen in a long time."
The California Alcohol Policy Alliance recently organized protest rallies in front of Drybar's flagship salon in Brentwood and at the 18/8 Fine Men's Salon in Lafayette, where beer was served from a keg, just like at the San Rafael franchise.
Protesters carried placards saying "Alcohol belongs in saloons, not salons," "No buzzed cuts," "Cut my hair not my liver" and "Blow dry and DUI."
Scippa is particularly annoyed by Drybar's brand identification with drinking. The Drybar logo incorporates images of Champagne flutes and cocktail glasses and Champagne, mimosas and white wine are complimentary at its salons. As part of its "bar vernacular," cashiers are called "bartenders" and hairstyles are named after cocktails -- Cosmo, Manhattan, Dirty Martini. There's even a Shirley Temple, presumably for kids and teetotallers.
"We're concerned about how alcohol is being institutionalized, that it's become such a part of the fabric of the culture that it's expected and accepted that there's nothing you can do that wouldn't be better with a glass of alcohol in your hand," Scippa said. "And that's just wrong, especially for youth. And both these companies cater to youth."
Under the bill, beauty salons and barber shops would be allowed to serve customers no more than 12 ounces of beer or six ounces of wine by the glass as long as there's no extra charge for it and its before 10 p.m. Drybar and 18/8 are its most high-profile champions, but some independent salons in Marin are quietly hoping that they'll be able to serve their clients a glass of wine without always having to hope that authorities look the other way.
"We'd like our guests to be able to relax and have a glass of wine or Champagne without having to get an ABC license," said Ashley Franklin, manager of The Style Bar in Greenbrae's Bon Air Center. "A lot of women get upset when they want to have a glass of Champagne while they're getting their hair and makeup done and we have to turn them down."
A hidden benefit of the Drybar bill is that it would eliminate what Franklin calls "the tattle factor" -- competing salons reporting each other for serving wine to their customers.
"Another salon could report us and we could potentially get shut down," she said. "It definitely eliminates that. I believe it would be a benefit to every salon."
She won't get an argument on that score from Jaylana Zemansky, an owner of AP Luxe Salon in Mill Valley. She supports the Drybar bill and its one-drink limit.
"I do think it's a good idea as long as the salon owner is responsible and serves appropriate amounts," she said. "I don't think it's great for us to get our clients hammered while they're here."