A long-time business owner at the downtown City Market says she was fined and shut down by the Indianapolis Health Department over a potentially invalid violation while ignoring open drug use and public defecation by the homeless population in the area.
Brenda Barrett, owner of Jack’s Barbershop, had been in operation for 14-years the day she received a notice in the mail informing her that she was being sued by the city of Indianapolis for a health code violation.
According to Barrett, the supposed violation stemmed from an incident in which she was seen sitting alone in her barbershop without a facemask.
“Somebody took a picture of me [and] called the Health Department, Barrett told WIBC’s Jason Hammer and Rob Kendall. “And I told [County Health Officials] them I was not aware of any law that said I was not allowed to sit alone in my own business without a mask on, but I do comply with all health codes and wear a mask when I cut hair.”
Barrett’s explanation fell on deaf ears. She is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on August 6th.
Regardless of whether she prevails in court, however, Barrett has suffered severe financial hardship as a result of the misunderstanding. In addition to the expense of hiring an attorney to represent her, the business owner continues to pay rent on her lease at the City Market despite being forced to cease operations for the last three months.
“There’s just no break,” said Barrett.
The city’s decision to force the closure of a successful 14-year-business in good standing for a minor infraction is hypocritical at best considering Barrett’s barbershop is located in an area in which homeless people openly defecate and do drugs on a daily basis, and all of it takes place mere steps from the City-County Building, IMPD headquarters, and the office of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
“There are at least 15 piles of human feces that I encounter every morning on my way into the building,” Barrett said. “So how am I hurting the environment when I’m sitting alone in my shop without customers, yet the city lets the homeless people get human feces and urine all over that the business owners have to clean up every day with snow shovels.”
Arguably, some of Barrett’s legal woes stem from what Indianapolis business owners claim is widespread confusion over the city’s policies on face-coverings.
Barrett told Jason Hammer and Rob Kendall she initially received a warning for her violation; however, one of her employees – an elderly veteran with emphysema – was later spotted outside her shop without his mask.
“I make him wear a mask when he cuts hair, but they said I have to make him wear a mask outside the shop as well,” said Barrett. “How am I going to make a grown man who is 70, has COPD, and emphysema wear a mask when he’s outside my shop?”
Barrett said other tenants at the City Market have recently been hit with fines minor health code violations.
“Cindy at Circle City Sweets was hit with a $200 fine because someone didn’t have a mask on,” said Barret, adding that the projected fine for her shop is between $1,000 and $2,500.
Barrett charged Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett with making empty promises to alleviate some of her business’s financial hardships.
“His idea of help is offering a deferral of your base rent, which is one-fourth of your rent,” explained Barrett. “It’s deferred for a period of two years, but then you have to pay interest, and that’s not helping anyone.”
Barrett said she has a message for Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett: “Bite me.”
Click below to hear Jason Hammer and Rob Kendall’s full interview