La Jolla salon operator sues state over COVID-19 restrictions

The operator of Atelier Aucoin Salon in La Jolla has filed a lawsuit over the state's COVID-19 closure orders.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The operator of a La Jolla hair salon filed a proposed class-action lawsuit Jan. 19 against the state of California over its COVID-19-related closure orders, alleging disproportionate enforcement of pandemic restrictions against the beauty industry.

Tatoma Inc., which does business as Atelier Aucoin Salon at 7535 Girard Ave., alleges in the suit filed in federal court in San Diego that the state has singled out barbering and cosmetology professionals for closure while other establishments have been allowed to operate at reduced capacity, outdoors or remotely.

California has shut down salons through its regional stay-at-home order, which was extended late last month “despite the lack of any showing or evidence that the operation of hair salons at the same levels permitted for other types of businesses would lead to increased transmission rates of COVID-19,” the lawsuit contends.

A representative of the California attorney general’s office had no comment on the case Jan. 20, saying it wasn’t in the state’s system yet because it takes two to three weeks after filing for a case to be processed.

The suit seeks compensation for “all residents in the state of California holding barbering or cosmetology licenses which were active as of March 19, 2020, and who have been unable to work at any time from March 19, 2020, to the present due to the closure orders issued by the state of California.”

The suit states that salons were shuttered “without just compensation” while the state has “categorically labeled plaintiff’s industry ‘non-essential,’ thereby conscripting plaintiff and other licensees to joblessness and taking their property without due process or legal justification.”

While the salon remains closed, it has not taken in any income but must still make monthly rental payments, pay licensing fees and cover other operating costs, the suit states.

The lawsuit is one of several filed by area business owners against the state and county over shutdown orders, many of which make similar claims that officials have arbitrarily enforced pandemic orders against their industries or classified their businesses as non-essential while other seemingly non-essential businesses were allowed to keep operating.

— La Jolla Light staff writer Elisabeth Frausto contributed to this report.