By MEGHAN PIERCE
WINCHESTER — Governor Chris Sununu paid a visit to Cuts on Main Thursday to make a point about red tape in Concord and to eliminate more than 1,600 obsolete state regulations with the stroke of a pen.
The Main Street hair salon, owned by Sarah Horton of Winchester, was chosen as a symbol of over regulation at the state level because of the $500 fine it was facing from the state’s Board of Barbering, Cosmetology and Esthetics.
The salon was accused of being in violation of a regulation regarding false advertising.
Horton said she was initially notified by the board to remove the barber’s pole outside her hair salon, which at one point had been a barber’s shop.
Horton, who is a licensed cosmetologist, is not a licensed barber.
When she received a letter from the state she thought it was just a formality and she had already complied.
“There had been a barber’s pole where the Cuts on Main sign is, but when the barber retired he took it with him, and I was like. ‘Yeah I did,’ and I ignored the letter,” Horton said. “The next one I got was nastier and had a fine and said ‘you’ve already been warned once, remove your pole.’”
The fine was for $3, but was to be raised to $500 if she didn’t comply, she said.
Horton soon learned the board was referring to the red, white and blue strips painted on the corner of the historic brick building in which her salon is located in. Horton leases the salon space, she said, and hadn’t even noticed the strips on the building. She was being told by the state to paint over the bricks. Horton said it’s a historic building and she doesn’t own it.
“Everybody I’ve talked to, people who are my age, I’m forty, they say it’s always been there,” she said.
Sununu’s action Thursday wiped away the threat of a fine for a more “common sense” approach in enforcing the false advertising regulation from the state board.
“Keep us on our toes. Let us know what else we can do to help you as individuals or your businesses or where things have broken down. Doesn’t mean every rule gets written off the books. It really doesn’t. We have some rules and regs at the state that are great. They lay a great foundation and framework for ourselves. But we can always do better. We can simplify the process for individuals and keep that Live Free or Die Spirit, that 603 Pride … and keep it going strong,” Sununu said.
Sununu attracted several Winchester business owners Thursday at the salon who were anxious to express their concerns over some state regulations, including Horton’s husband Rick Horton.
The couple, who were married in June, recently started manufacturing beer in a cabin on their Scotland Road property. Their small brewery, The Outlaw Brewery Co., is hurt by a state regulation that only allows a brewery to apply for a nanobrewery license at $240 annually if it produces fewer than 2,000 barrels of beer per year and is in a public building.
While they intend to produce less than 2,000 barrels annually, because their brewery is not open to the public, they are required to hold a beverage manufacturing license, which is for microbreweries that produce more than 15,000 barrels per year and costs $1,200 annually.
“We pay for a license that we’re never going to use all of the capacity,” he said.
Rick Horton said meeting Sununu was a chance for him to express his concerns over how this state regulation hurts small startup breweries like his. He also told Sununu he was surprised he wasn’t able to apply for his state license online.
“It’s not an automated process,” Sununu asked.
“Not at all,” Rick Horton said, “Which to me seems crazy.”
Sununu said he would like to see more state systems updated.
“The best part of all of this is he got to get some information. Whether or not he can do something with it we don’t know but at least there is some awareness,” he said after meeting Sununu.
Sununu also visited New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery at 136 Main Street, which is just a few store fronts down from Cuts on Main. While in the tasting room, Sununu sampled the maple whiskey and immediately asked his staff to get his wallet so he could buy a bottle, which he did.
He also got a tour of the distillery and heard concerns from owner distillery owners Robert and Patti Spruill.
Robert Spruill said they would like to open a restaurant, but in order to serve their liquor in the restaurant they would have to sell it to the state then buy it back from the state at a loss.
“We just want to be treated like the wineries and the breweries to be honest with you,” Robert Spruill said.
“And not as a competitor,” Sununu said.
Sununu said the liquor commission needs to act more like a partner than competition to distilleries like New England Sweetwater. He then asked the asked the couple to put all of their concerns in an email to him.