Hair salons and schools tangle over reforms

Two bills pending in the Ohio General Assembly call for changes to how hair stylists and salons are regulated

  • Eliminate the requirement that salons have a licensed manager on premise whenever they are open for business;
  • Replace the cosmetology manager license with an optional advanced license;
  • Develop methods to facilitate consumer reporting of suspected safety or sanitation violations;
  • Increase transparency of State Board of Cosmetology reports and findings.

A major fight is shaping up at the Ohio Statehouse over a licensing and training requirement for some hair stylists, which big salon owners say is onerous and unnecessary but beauty school operators say sets stylists up for career success.

On one side is the Ohio Salon Association and two members of the State Board of Cosmetology. On the other is the Ohio Association of Cosmetology Schools. In the middle are Ohio’s 20,946 licensed cosmetologists and 50,569 cosmetologist managers.

“It’s the little guys fighting against the big guys,” said lobbyist Billie Fiore-Zimmers, who represents the schools.

Identical bills pending in the House and Senate call for a slew of regulatory changes. But the big blow up is over an existing mandate that salons have someone with a “manager license” on premises every moment that they are open for business. The bills would wipe out that requirement.

“To me, this seems like a no brainer,” said state Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, sponsor of the House bill. “Government doesn’t need to be putting undue, burdensome requirements on small businesses. This is the perfect example.”

Charles Penzone, Inc., which is a Columbus-based chain of high-end salons, testified in favor of the bill. Charles Penzone, the owner, is a member of the state cosmetology board. Likewise, board member Clara Osterhage, who owns about 50 Great Clips franchises and employs about 550 people in Ohio, favors the bill.

“As a business owner, I have the right to choose who is in charge of my salon,” said Osterhage, who noted she was not speaking on behalf of the state board.

Don Yearwood, owner of Carousel Beauty Colleges & The Spa Institute, which operates five for-profit schools in the Dayton-Springfield area, said the changes in the bill don’t fit with existing regulations, would create chaos, and fail to take into account the feedback from the entire industry. “The whole thing is disjointed and not well thought out and everybody suffers,” he said.

Licensed cosmetologists undergo 1,500 hours of training at a private school or 1,125 hours at a public vocational school. Private schools offer an additional 300 hour course for a manager license, which allows a stylist to manage or work solo in a salon. Stylists may also opt to skip the training and pass the state test, which includes material on leasing agreements, zoning regulations, business math and financial record keeping.

Yearwood said the basic course takes nearly a year and costs between $15,000 and $18,000. The manager license add-on costs his students $380 and takes an additional seven weeks, he said.

The Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates for fewer government regulations, said some schools charge as much as $5,000 for the additional 300 hours and students often take out federal loans to cover the expense. The manager license mandate benefits the private beauty schools, not the students or salons, said Buckeye Institute spokesman Dennis Cauchon.

“This reform has been killed in previous years because cosmetology schools are very effective at lobbying behind the scenes,” Cauchon said. Ohio has 84 private beauty schools.

Representing the other side of the fight is Tony Fiore, lobbyist for the Ohio Salon Association and cousin to lobbyist Fiore-Zimmers who represent the private schools.

Fiore called 1,800 hours of training overkill and noted that an emergency medical technician is only required to compete 150 hours of training. He told lawmakers that Ohio is the only state with the manager license mandate. Yearwood and Fiore-Zimmers said other states have advanced practice licenses but don’t use the same wording as Ohio.

Osterhage said “The laws exist to protect the public. The question becomes is the public any more at risk if the person with that license isn’t in the salon. And the answer is no.”

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