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Should Hair Salons Be Allowed to Serve Free Alcohol?

A battle is currently being waged in the California legislature

Simon Cocks/Flickr

Thanks to the 21st Amendment, adults are largely free to consume alcohol as they damn well please, provided it doesn't interfere with operating heavy machinery or, you know, teaching a kindergarten class. Sipping a gratis mimosa while getting a haircut is one of the perks that comes along with reaching adulthood, but a legal battle over the right to do so is currently heating up in the California legislature.

AB 1322, AKA the "Drybar Bill," would allow salons to provide free beer and wine to patrons. The bill is nicknamed for a popular high-end salon chain that's leading the charge; a similar law was already passed in Maryland back in 2014. AB 1322 was unanimously approved by the California Assembly last year, but now some are urging Governor Jerry Brown to veto it out of concern for public health and safety.

Alcohol watchdog groups are busting out the old "Won't someone please think of the children?" argument: A press release from the California Alcohol Policy Alliance quotes a 15-year-old who says, "A lot of kids come to barbershops and salons and this bill will allow easy access and it's a bad example."

Frankly it's hard to imagine any professional hairstylist deciding to recklessly endanger their livelihood by giving a 10-year-old a beer while they're getting a trim (and maybe teens shouldn't be advising on policy?), but others agree it could pose a threat to public health and safety.

Alcohol policy expert Jeremy Arney, an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, says, "This is yet another example of two competing value systems. One is business oriented and cares only about increasing their profits, while the other side is public health oriented and would rather see the citizens protected from health hazards via government policies and regulations."

But many salons are already doing it anyway (see: your average neighborhood nail salon, where the free white wine flows like acetone). Making the Drybar bill into law would help regulate something that's already widespread, as it would mandate that salon customers can be served a max of six ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.

The idea that giving clients a glass of wine would significantly boost salons' profits is perhaps a bit misguided, too; after all, businesses wouldn't be allowed to charge extra for it, and it's probably safe to say that most customers are making appointments based on their need for a blowout or a bang trim and not simply a desire to score free booze.

Watchdog group Alcohol Justice argues that the passage of such a bill would set a bad precedent by allowing thousands of venues to serve alcohol without a license. Nonetheless, now it's up to the California Senate and/or Governor Brown to decide whether Californians should be allowed to (legally) enjoy a glass of merlot with their salon services.

• "Alcohol Belongs in Saloons, Not Salons!" [Press Release]

• All Booze News [E]

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