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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Special needs salon says it's impossible to operate outside under California rules

Amy Mullins, owner of tHAIRrapy Hair Salon in San Diego, said her clients with autism and special needs are being left in the dark.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — When Governor Gavin Newsom amended his mandate for beauty salons to open for business as long as it is done outside it shifted salon owners to adapt.

But one business owner argued the new outdoor guidelines are discriminating against her special needs clients.

Amy Mullins, owner of tHAIRrapy Hair Salon in San Diego, said her clients with autism and special needs are being left in the dark.

"This is my son. If you saw him, you would think he's a grown man. This is his safe space," said Shontelle Chavez, mother of 14-year-old Lestat who is autistic. 

She said coming to tHAIRapy Hair Salon is a form of therapy.

"This is the only place he can go where if he had a meltdown I don't have to worry about him being tased or the cops being called," Shontelle said. "If they don't open back up, I don't know what I'm gonna do."

Mullins said the statewide salon closures failed to address a very vulnerable population.

"What Governor Newsom is doing is wrong," the long-time salon owner said. "He's taking away my rights to earn a living. He's taken away the disabilities community to be able to be seen, to be cared for, to be not forgotten."

She added that her special needs clientele require much more than a hair trim. Mullins said the visits to her salon offer life skills, a sense of normalcy and a controlled environment.

"I have clients that need to pace 15 minutes before they get a hair cut just to get their anxiety under control," which is why, Mullins said, they can't move outdoors.

"It's completely against ADA regulations for a business not to reasonably accommodate someone with disabilities. By having to move all of my business outside I can't accommodate any of my clients," she said. 

Mullins has joined her landlord J-D Bols in a lawsuit challenging the governor's authority to close businesses.