barber_pole.jpgHOUMA, La. (AP) _ Shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, a Houma Police officer handed 32-year-old Clyde Scott a ticket.

Scott wasn't in a speeding car, parked illegally or even jaywalking. Rather, he was inside his barbershop cutting hair, trimming up a few students readying for their Monday-night graduation ceremony when officer Michael Toups walked in.

“He said he's giving me a citation for opening on a Monday,'' said Scott, who has owned Clippas barbershop for about two years.

Little did Scott know, a decades-old city law forbids barbers from plying their trade on Sundays and Mondays.

“I was just open to cut those guys' hair,'' Scott said. “I do cut some Mondays or Sundays.''

The law also bans barbershops within the city limits from opening on New Year's Day, the day after New Year's, Mardi Gras, Good Friday, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, the day after Labor Day, All Saints' Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the day after Christmas.

“I didn't know it existed,'' Scott said. “It's crazy.''

Parish Council Clerk Paul Labat said the city ordinance dates to the years before the parish and city governments merged in 1981, though he could not say exactly when the Board of Aldermen that used to govern Houma passed the measure.

“It was probably on the books before 1979,'' Labat said, adding that the law only applies to barbershops within the city limits. “It's still an active law.''

Toups was sent to write the ticket following several complaints called in to the police department about people loitering outside the barbershop, Houma Police spokesman Lt. Todd Duplantis said.

Duplantis said neighboring business owners had complained about the barbershop, alleging people loitered outside Clippas at “various odd hours.''

Sgt. Daniel Belanger reviewed local codes and noticed there was an ordinance on the books regarding barbershop hours, Duplantis said.

“He instructed Michael Toups to issue the barbershop a summons for the ordinance,'' Duplantis said.

Enforcing barbershop hours is not a regular part of police patrols, Duplantis said. In fact, in his 23 years with the department, the police spokesman said he has never heard of such a ticket being written.

But since the law exists, officers are obliged to enforce its provisions, he said.

Scott said he is consulting a lawyer about the ticket, which could result in a fine of up to $500.

“I think they've got other things they can be doing than harassing me,'' Scott said.

And he may have a case, according to James Adams, a former barber and president of the Louisiana Board of Barber Examiners, the state licensing agency for barbers and their shops.

“I've never heard of anybody having a law like that,'' Adams said.

The law is likely a vestige of “strong-arm union tactics'' employed in the 1950s and 1960s by the Louisiana State Association of Barbers, Cosmetologists and Allied Industries, Adams said.

The union formerly set hours and prices and picketed barbers who didn't participate.

Given the similarities between the wording of the law and the union's old policies, a group of local barbers “probably took that language down to City Hall and asked them to make it a city ordinance or a parish ordinance,'' Adams said, calling the law flatly “unconstitutional.''

“I'm surprised such a law is still on the books,'' he added. “It's against federal law to conspire to fix prices and hours. … You can't do it. It's against the law.''

In decades past, black-owned barber shops like Scott's were generally barred from joining the union, Adams said.

Accordingly, such shops didn't follow the union rules.

“Most African-American barbers were not in the union,'' he said. “They (probably) weren't aware such a rule even existed.''

One such barber is 74-year-old John Boykin, who has been cutting hair at his shop, also within the city limits, for almost 51 years.

Even after black barbers were allowed to join the union, Boykin said he had little use for the organization or its rules.

“If they didn't let me join then, why would I want to join now?'' he said.

Semiretired, Boykin only takes customers a couple of days a week, he said.

But in his younger days, he opened his shop six days a week, including Mondays.

A city police officer writing a barber a ticket for working on a Monday, or any other day of the week, is unbelievable, Boykin said.

“I've never heard of that before in my life,'' he said.