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TERRENCE MCEACHERN: A hand-delivered liquor licence and free publicity from politicians

Summerside MLA Chris Palmer, seated, along with, from left, Transportation Minister Paula Biggar, Humble Barber owner Sean Aylward and Tourism Minister Heath MacDonald, announced changes to the Liquor Control Act that will allow Aylward to sell beer on his premises.
Summerside MLA Chris Palmer, seated, along with, from left, Transportation Minister Paula Biggar, Humble Barber owner Sean Aylward and Tourism Minister Heath MacDonald, announced changes to the Liquor Control Act that will allow Aylward to sell beer on his premises. - Facebook

Here's what I want from a barber.

A good and affordable haircut, enough wait time to take off my jacket and watch a bit of television, and then get on with my day.

A beer? No thanks.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Humble Barber finally got a liquor licence for its Charlottetown and Summerside shops after a ridiculous three-year battle.

I’m happy the business got its licence, and in doing so, paved the way for other barber shops to apply for one.

Even so, my personal view is beer should be left in the bar. I also don’t quite get the appeal of having a beer while waiting for a haircut.

Let’s not forget, it’s nothing new.

I remember 20 years ago getting a haircut at a barber shop on Regent Street in Fredericton and buying a beer. I also remember being rushed into the chair, and the whole experience taking about 10 minutes. It wasn’t much of an experience.   

That seems to be the key to making barber shops and beer work – the experience.

One place has figured it out. When I lived in Regina, the hip place to get a haircut was Ragged Ass Barbers. The Regina business is located directly above the popular Victoria’s Tavern in a heritage building in the city’s downtown core. I’m guessing it’s at least three times the square footage of most barber shops. The music was cranked all day. Couches lined an open concept waiting area with televisions, dart boards and pin ball machines.

Especially on Saturday mornings, people would come in before their appointments for a few beers and simply hang out. Wedding parties and Roughrider game days were always busy. 

The customer got a beer or two and a social experience.

For the typical barber shop, there isn’t much of an experience sipping on a beer sitting on metal and cushion chairs.

But, hey, the Humble Barber can do what it wants to with its business and money. And if it wants to sell beer, then go ahead.   

Related: Liquor can be sold at barbershops, salons across P.E.I. as of Saturday

What bothers me about the Feb. 12 announcement that Humble Barber got a liquor licence was the hype. Sure, the media was obligated to provide some closure on a story it previously covered.

But did P.E.I.’s Finance Minister Heath MacDonald really have to drive to Summerside to deliver the licence in person?

It wasn’t just the finance minister. Fellow MLAs and cabinet ministers Paula Bigger and Chris Palmer also showed up.

EDITORIAL: Opening the taps

Several photos were taken and posted on Twitter, including one of Palmer sitting in a barber chair with MacDonald holding clippers and Biggar a straight razor. Everyone is smiling and laughing, including the owner.

My first reaction when I saw the photo was it’s somewhat refreshing to see politicians let their guard down, have a laugh and show a human side.

My second reaction was, don’t these taxpayer-funded cabinet ministers have more important things to do than ham it up for a photo in a barber shop on a Monday afternoon?

I’m not sure why the Humble Barber got this personalized treatment. Maybe it was a goodwill gesture on behalf of the politicians after the barber shop’s lengthy battle to get a liquor licence.

But if I was a business owner that went through similar hassle and red tape getting a licence, I’d be asking myself "where was my hand-delivered licence, free publicity and photo opportunity with cabinet ministers?"

It’s a fair question.

Maybe hand delivering licences and photo opportunities are going to be the new way of doing things.

Somehow, I doubt it.

Terrence McEachern is The Guardian's provincial business reporter. Twitter.com/terry_mcn

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