MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz recently extended the stay-at-home order until May 18. More exceptions are being made for businesses to reopen, but not for haircuts.

In the shadows of the State Capitol, King Milan Barbershop had, for the first time in seven weeks, its lights on. Milan Dennie is the owner.

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“It’s my livelihood,” Dennie said. “I’ve been sitting here coming up with strategies and plans on how to open up and do it correctly.”

His customers outside had at least two things in common: The plea to reopen businesses, and the need for a haircut.

For two hours, Dennie enforced social distancing and sanitizing as a way to prove he’s serious for the 16 clients he served.

The 17th person to walk in was St. Paul police.

“We just stepped outside and he talked to me,” Dennie said. “He said he feels what I’m going through, but the order is in place right now.”

Technically, the state can shut him down and fine Dennie up to $25,000. He’s aware he could lose his shop by this decision to reopen. He’s convinced he’d lose it by staying closed.

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When the doors did close, donations came in along with support. Some from fellow barbers who are also stressed from not providing.

“Everybody keeps saying, ‘File this, file that.’ You file everything you want to, until your hands hurt,” Burnsville barbershop owner Nile House said. “You can keep typing til your hands are aching, but you’re not going to get it because it’s not coming.”

Some are worried the help that does arrive will be a bigger burden down the road.

“The only way that I can have my business survive is by further going into debt,” said Imade Imasuen, who owns a different barbershop in St. Paul.

The state has a call scheduled with industry leaders May 6, and Dennie will be part of that conversation.

Walz was asked about this issue, and said he understands the frustration, but asks business owners to do the right thing for their neighbors.

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A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Milan Dennie and King Milan Barbershop.

Christiane Cordero