Richie Ramirez, owner of Richie’s Barber Shop
Richie Ramirez, owner of Richie’s Barber Shop on Coast Village Road in Montecito, stands alone in his shop on Saturday, usually his busiest day of the week. Ramirez isn’t allowed to cut hair right now under state orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

When Richie Ramirez looks out his window, he sees smiling faces. They aren’t his customers, however; they are nearby restaurant patrons.

Ramirez, owner of Richie’s Barber Shop on Coast Village Road in Montecito, can’t serve his customers because of state orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that restaurants can serve their customers outside, barbers and salons can’t cut hair outside. The state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology does not allow outdoor hair-cutting and services.

“How are we supposed to pay our bills?” Ramirez said. “How are we supposed to stay in business?”

Richie’s is one of dozens of barber shops and salons in Santa Barbara County that can’t do business after Newsom ordered their closure again on Monday.

They face citations and financial penalties if caught cutting hair indoors or outdoors. They were ordered closed in March amid the first wave of the pandemic breakout, and then allowed to open again on May 26.

Van Do-Reynoso, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department director, said the county wants to figure out a way to allow barber shops, salons and tattoo shops to re-open and allow outdoor cuts.

“We are seeing that inconsistency and we are advocating to the state,” Do-Reynoso said, in response to a Noozhawk question at Friday’s press conference.

Unlike some restaurants, most barber shops and salons are unable to qualify for the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program loan because they don’t have employees and typically use independent contractors. Even though they don’t have employees to pay at this time, they aren’t creating revenue to pay their building leases.

Ramirez said he has been cutting hair for more than 20 years. He branched out on his own from Montecito Barbers to start his own shop. He is originally from Santa Barbara and lived in Santa Maria.

On Saturday, Ramirez stood alone in his shop. It usually is the busiest day of the week. 

“Every time I have to shut down and reopen, it’s like starting a new business again,” Ramirez said. “That costs money. Every time this happens, you are going deeper and deeper into the hole. I don’t know what the answer is.”

He said if restaurants are allowed to serve their customers outside, and they can sit less than 6 feet apart without wearing masks, that barber shops should be allowed to offer cuts outside.

“Now you have nail shops shut, you have barber shops, you have salons — that makes up a huge number of people,” Ramirez said. “What are these people going to do? If you don’t have any kind of backing, or you just started a business and you can’t financially make it, you’re just going to go out of business. They are making it so I can’t run a business.”

George Salagado owns The Barber Shop in the 1100 block of State Street in Santa Barbara. When the recent order came down, he decided to take his business outside. He carried a 300-pound barber shop chair out onto the sidewalk. He performed about 25 cuts that day.

During that period of time, he was State Street’s newest star attraction. People cheered him on. 

It turned out, however, that the state board doesn’t allow outdoor licenses to cut hair. Salgado said authorities shut him down on Wednesday.

“It’s devastating,” said Salgado, whose shop also houses a nail salon.

Salgado said that even if the state allowed him to cut hair outside, it’s probably not financially sustainable. It’s only one chair, he said, and that’s not enough.

“I put my life savings into this,” said Salgado, who grew up in Santa Barbara. When he thinks about how he owns a business on State Street, he said it is “mind-blowing.”

Salgado said he heard that Aug. 12 could be a day when barber shops and nail salons might be able to reopen. He’ll be waiting for the word.

“I am going to try my best to keep my shop going,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at