Tune Up Franchise Sues Texas as Governor Closes Bars
Tim Vaught, franchisee of a Tune Up-The Manly Salon in Midlothian, Texas, gets a haircut and shave during a Franchise Times visit on June 11. "I applaud it," he said about the franchisor's stance against lockdown orders.
Tune Up, a chain of men's barbershops that defied lockdown orders in May, is suing Montgomery County, the state of Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott, asking the court to declare unconstitutional a series of executive orders issued since March 19 aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest order came today, when Abbott closed bars again and said restaurants must reduce to 50 percent occupancy by Monday amid spikes in cases.
"We took a fundamental position on behalf of all small businesses," said Ryan Logan, co-owner of Tune Up-The Manly Salon, in an interview June 11 when the lawsuit was being prepared. "Our goal is to escalate this," through the appellate courts and then to the state supreme court as quickly as possible. "I think a lot of people are going to talk about it."
Kevin Fulton of Fulton Strahan law firm is pressing the suit, challenging "violations of the state constitution," Logan said, adding the lawsuit is not meant to be an attack on the governor.
“But the appropriate action would have been to call a special session of the Legislature and let lawmakers debate the best way to address the crisis," Logan told iCrowd Newswire. "As it was, Governor Abbott was doing his best to address a sudden, unanticipated crisis, but his method was unconstitutional."
Anthony Milton, CEO of the 52-store Tune Up chain, said, "The premise is, we're against government intervention. It's free enterprise, and it's supposed to be the freest country in the world. Of course we're going to push back. We're filing to preemptively not allow them to shut us down again."
Abbott issued a statement today, saying, "As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10 percent, the state of Texas would take further action. At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars."
Yesterday, the governor ordered a pause in non-essential surgeries to reserve hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.
Milton and Tune Up's co-owners opened a corporate salon May 1, ahead of the governor's order allowing hair salons to do so, then enlisted two state representatives and a constitutional lawyer to open again five days later. Tune Up's actions pressured the governor to move up the date hair salons could open by 10 days, Milton said.
At the time, Milton said no one in the cosmetology industry was represented on the governor's advisory board, leaving policy to be influenced by other, more powerful influencers.
"We took the position that we should never have been closed in the beginning, and when we started to quote reopen, we should have been among the first," Milton said in a phone interview in May. "The governor allowed movie theaters to open first," before barbershops. "The whole thing was absurd to begin with."