Hair professionals in Minnesota have a history of discord. To save money during tough budget times, then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty merged regulatory boards for barbers and cosmetologists in 2004. Years of infighting followed about which industry's interests got more attention. In 2009, the two were split into separate entities again.
Republican Rep. Bob Gunther, the bill's sponsor, said he didn't want to open those old wounds but he understands why barbers are so determined to get a barber pole monopoly.
"It's been a centuries-long, recognizable symbol of a barber and only a barber," Gunther said.
In the St. Paul suburb of Rosemount, a barber pole sits outside the Cahill Salon & Barber Parlor, where husband and wife owners Joel and Lisa Martin share space but not an opinion on the legislation.
On one side is Joel Martin's "Man Cave," where a pool table, pinball machine and satellite TVs fill out a macho dÉcor. On the other, Lisa Martin's clients can shop from carefully organized shelves of hair products and wait on white leather couches.
Lisa Martin said anyone who cuts hair should be able to display the pole, and she can't understand why it has the attention of state lawmakers.
"There's other things out there they should be more worried about in our industry other than who has a barber pole outside their business for advertising," she said, ticking off sanitary conditions, for one.
To Joel Martin, it's about truth in advertising.
"A lot of men will not come into a shop that just says salon because they are looking for someone who has barbering experience," he said. "It tells people driving by that that's what they can get here."
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