Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Anonymous call ends free haircuts for needy kids in Largo

LARGO — City employees at Southwest Recreation Center were forced to stop giving free haircuts to underprivileged children this month after an anonymous resident claiming to be a city employee said the city was breaking the law by practicing barbering without a license.

Largo's mayor and the parks department staff saw it this way: Yes, the free haircuts broke the law, but if the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office can do the same thing at its homeless shelter, what's the big deal?

The city staff member giving the haircuts, said parks and recreation director Joan Byrne, was not a licensed barber and thus was in violation of a state statute requiring a license to cut hair.

But it's a shame the haircuts have to stop, Byrne said in an e-mail.

"Many of these kids could not afford a regular trip to the barber and this opportunity was both good for their self-esteem and was highly valued by the recipients and their families," Byrne wrote.

When the matter came up during Largo's regular City Commission meeting last Tuesday, Mayor Patricia Gerard expressed her disappointment.

"I'm really sorry we've had to stop doing the haircuts. I think it's damn mean-spirited to make a point of that," Gerard said. "What is your problem, whoever it was who complained about that?"

Gerard also pointed out that many charitable agencies and penal institutions across the county and state do the same — including the Pinellas Safe Harbor homeless shelter.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Marianne Pasha confirmed that an inmate at the county jail provides barber services to the homeless in the county shelter, as well as for other jail inmates.

Pasha said the haircuts involve only an electric shear and combs, and the inmate, who she said is a former barber himself, though currently unlicensed, has years of experience.

Pasha said she is unsure whether the state statute applies to the jail. An examination of the state statute, Chapter 476.044, does show an exception that might apply to the jail, exempting "Persons employed in federal, state, or local institutions, hospitals, or military bases as barbers whose practice is limited to the inmates, patients, or authorized military personnel of such institutions, hospitals, or bases."

City Manager Norton "Mac" Craig said that based on a conversation between Largo police Chief John Carroll and state regulators, the Office of Business and Professional Regulation is aware that illegal barbering goes on across the state and generally doesn't enforce its rules on small-scale operations like Largo's.

"They are aware that this happens everywhere … across the state. They don't try to enforce the rule. They say it's like a slap on the wrist and they tell you not to do it anymore," Craig said.

However, because the haircuts have been put under a spotlight, Craig took action.

"I have terminated haircuts. We're not doing them anymore," he said, though with a tinge of regret.

"A lot of people are going to be put out now that kids are going to have to figure out how to get a haircut," he said.

Craig is looking into ways the city may be able to resume offering haircuts to underprivileged children.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes said one of his concerns was that the city may be unfairly competing with actual Largo barber shops.

"There's local barbers down there also and I don't think they're very happy about the city competing with them," Holmes said.

According to one local barber, George Yunko, owner of George's Barber Shop on Indian Rocks Road, it's not so much the competition from the city that irks him, but the fact that the city is operating a barber service without a license.

"If they wanted to give free haircuts away through licensed barbers — and (the barbers) wanted to give away their time — I don't have a problem with it," said Yunko, who has been in business for 24 years.

Dominick Tao can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 580-2951.

Anonymous call ends free haircuts for needy kids in Largo 01/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 6:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay


    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  2. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  3. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119
  4. Lightning's Brayden Point could be perfect fit alongside Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    SUNRISE — Brayden Point ended last season as the Lightning's No. 1 center, thrust into the role as a rookie due to injuries.

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) advances the puck through the neutral zone during Friday's preseason game against the Nashville Predators. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. For starters: Rays at Yankees, with Blake Snell starting, Wilson Ramos cashing in


    The Rays open their final road series of the season tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is also where they played their first of the season.

    LHP Blake Snell will be on the mound for the Rays, looking to continue his successful late-season run, in which he is 4-0, 2,57 over his last eight starts.

    Tonight marks Wilson Ramos' 55th start of the season.