Police shut down short-lived protest at Lansing barber shop

Owner risked reopening, claiming economic need


(This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.)

THURSDAY, April 30 — Brian Caskey risked a misdemeanor charge, civil fines and losing his business license today by reopening Classic Barber Shop along Michigan Avenue in Lansing. 

And although he told City Pulse that he was willing to face those consequences to keep his local business open amid a global pandemic, Caskey has since agreed to close up shop after a verbal warning from the Lansing Police Department, according to an LPD spokesman.

“I’m just to the point where if I don’t come to work, I’m going to lose my business,” Caskey explained in an interview with City Pulse earlier today before the Police Department had arrived. “I hold a roof over myself and two other barbers. If I don’t do this, I’m not going to have this to come back to. Neither will they, and nobody will be able to take care of their families.”

Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” executive order, nonessential businesses — including salons and barbershops — must remain closed through at least May 15. Willful violations are misdemeanors that could cause a business to lose its license.

While hundreds of protesters gathered at the State Capitol today to demand Whitmer loosen regulations on social distancing and legislators denied an extension of Michigan’s emergency declaration, Caskey — in an act of “civil disobedience” — has decided not to wait around.

Caskey told a City Pulse reporter later this afternoon that he only ended up giving a few free haircuts to a few clients today, and wouldn’t consider the shop “open” to the general public. Still, officers at the Lansing Police Department suspected it to be a violation of Whitmer’s orders.

A spokesman for the Lansing Police Department — the agency tasked with enforcing Whitmer’s executive orders in Lansing — said officers checked on the shop at 11:56 a.m. but it was closed. Officers returned at 1:20 p.m. and Caskey agreed to again close down the business.

No tickets were issued; Caskey posted a video of an officer kindly telling him to lock up the shop, but Caskey was still there a few hours later. The front door was wide open. Police forwarded reports to the Ingham Co. prosecutor’s office for further review and possible charges.

“It’s essential to me,” Caskey added, arguing that haircuts can still be done safely amid the pandemic. “Everything we’re taught is about safety. Half of my schooling was on protocols about sanitation. That’s what you get licensed for: How to do this properly and safely.”

Among Caskey’s first customers: Tom Norton, a “very conservative” Republican congressional candidate running for a seat in Michigan’s Third District. Norton shared a video this morning of him receiving what he called an “illegal” haircut before he left for the downtown protest today.

“A lot of small businesses don’t have a voice in this whole thing,” Caskey explained. “We’re kind of being forgotten here. These are the types of businesses and gems in town that will be lost as a result of this thing. ... I’m able to say that I’ll face the consequences if they happen.”

Caskey said that he filed for unemployment benefits earlier this week but has been unsuccessful in securing any local, state or federal loans or grants to supplant his revenue.


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