Meet Hair Salon Owner Who Went to Jail for Opening During COVID-19 Lockdown

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Shelley Luther made national news at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic when she was arrested and jailed for a week in the spring of 2020 for reopening her North Dallas, Texas, salon contrary to the county’s stay-at-home edict.

“You get a lot of moments of silence by yourself,” Luther said of her week in jail. “So, you do a lot of praying and wondering what’s going on outside.”

She joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to share her story as well as how the the coronavirus pandemic restrictions affected her small business—and those of others across Texas.

“The biggest problem is the media scaring everybody to where you can’t go anywhere,” Luther said.

“You can’t do this without a vaccine, but then you get a vaccine, and you still have to wear a mask, and I think there’s a lot of our older clientele that are still afraid to come get their hair done because of all of the mass hysteria,” she said.

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  • 49% of American voters are in favor of retaining the Senate filibuster, according to a new Rasmussen poll. 

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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Shelley Luther, a salon owner in Texas. Shelley, it’s great to have you with us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”

Shelley Luther: Thanks for having me.

Del Guidice: It’s great to have you with us. So, you and your whole story went really viral at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic when you were arrested and then jailed for opening your salon against your state’s regulations. Can you tell us the story of what happened?

Luther: Basically, we shut down for a month and they kept pushing back the goal posts and kept saying, “Two more weeks to flatten the curve, two more weeks, two more weeks.”

When it turns into a month and every other store around me was open, for no reason we were considered nonessential. I decided, you know what? We are essential. It’s not about a haircut. It’s about people’s livelihoods and being able to feed their kids. So we opened.

Through a lot of back and forth, I ended up in jail May 5th and I stayed through the 8th. And since then, we’ve been trying to help other businesses that are struggling.

Del Guidice: What was that experience like, and did you ever think you would end up in jail just for trying to keep your business open?

Luther: Well, it wasn’t my lifelong dream to end up in jail, but I felt like it had to happen. And I knew eventually it would happen the way that especially the Democratic local government was treating [businesses], … the way that they were. I knew I was going to jail when I walked into the courtroom before the trial even started, I was going to jail.

Del Guidice: What was the time in jail like? I mean, I know it was only a few days, but what were [the] thoughts running through your head or things you remember from that time?

Luther: You get a lot of moments of silence by yourself. So you do a lot of praying and wondering what’s going on outside.

Because I was taken away inside the courtroom, I didn’t even get to say goodbye to anyone. I was shut off for a full 24 hours of what was happening, and I didn’t know that everybody was rallying around me and money was being built up in an account. And that’s what kept me going afterward.

Del Guidice: You had some strong words for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when Pelosi went into a closed hair salon without a mask, and you would call this “blatant hypocrisy.” Can you tell us about why you feel this way, especially just given the personal story that you have?

Luther: I just think it’s a joke that some government officials think they’re better than everybody else. And the truth is they work for us. They are our employees.

So for any of the government officials to think that they can do what they want to do and then condemn us for just trying to survive is hypocrisy. It’s ridiculous. And we need to vote those people out of office.

Del Guidice: How [have] the coronavirus pandemic restrictions affected your small business? I want to talk about just things you’re still working through right now. Are there still issues you’re working through because of the different restrictions that have been passed down from the government?

Luther: I think a lot of it—and it’s not really the restrictions anymore, because being a hair salon, we’re sanitary to begin with. We’re trained. But the biggest problem is the media scaring everybody to “you can’t go anywhere, you can’t do this without a vaccine.” But then you get a vaccine and you still have to wear a mask.

And I think there’s a lot of our older clientele that are still afraid to come get their hair done because of all of the mass hysteria.

Del Guidice: How have you observed other small businesses that you may know or work with, how they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions as well?

Luther: The problem is there have been businesses that have been opened for a century that are closed forever. And this doesn’t affect just the business owner. It affects the people that clean that business, the workers, the insurance, anything to do with that business. All of those people are out of a job.

So it’s not just small business owners. It’s everybody that this is impacting. And we don’t want big box stores to be the story of our nation. It’s small businesses that built this nation.

Del Guidice: As a small business owner, what do you think needs to happen when it comes to letting small businesses open back up and move forward?

I know there are some states like Florida and Texas, they’re doing better, but other states are still really struggling. So do you have any insights or thoughts on what should happen to bring these businesses back?

Luther: I think [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis being a leader and [South Dakota] Gov. Kristi Noem just saying, “We’re going to let people decide and decide what’s best for them or safe for them and their family”—and that’s what needs to happen.

And if they’re governors—really the governor of Texas has not really opened up Texas either. It’s been a lot of people, especially in the rural counties, that just don’t follow the mandates—not wearing masks and saying, “I’m an adult, I can do what I want as long as I’m not hurting anybody else,” which we’re not.

I think that if one state can be open, if everybody would just really go against the government on this and stand up and say, “This isn’t right,” if everybody would do that, are they going to throw us all in jail? No, there’s not enough jail cells. So that’s what I would suggest.

Del Guidice: Well, you did run for the Texas State Senate, and even though you lost, what do you want to do going forward? Do you see yourself staying in politics? What is your thought for what you want to do after that during this time?

Luther: That’s a tough question because ever since this whole thing started, I’ve just been following God, what he tells me to do. And I don’t have my own plan. Honestly, I wake up each day and I’m, “What’s the plan today?” And he’s not good at telling us in advance what’s happening.

So right now, being at [the Conservative Political Action Conference] is huge, being someone that no one knew a year ago. And I really was just a quiet person, minding my own business.

I think if I am on the platform and I can influence or compel people to get out and be active as a normal person and show everybody you could do this, then that’s what I want to do. I want to encourage people to be more involved in their community at every level.

Del Guidice: … So, there’s this exchange between [President Joe] Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, where a question was asked, “What is President Biden doing for my small business?” And Psaki answered the question by first responding, “Well, first and foremost, he nominated a woman to lead the Small Business [Administration].”

As a woman, as a small business owner, what is your perspective on this whole situation and the response?

Luther: I think the liberals want to boast about hiring different races or different genders. What they’re doing is creating a bigger hole between our parties.

The country has never been more racist than it is right now, except for in the slavery days, and before segregation. I think that they are creating a culture that is creating a huge divide between us, and they call for unity but they’re doing the opposite.

Putting a woman in charge? Who cares? Put the best person in charge. Women aren’t going to look up and be, “Oh, I’m so glad that’s a woman.” No, we also, as hardworking women, want the best person there.

If the woman’s not smart, and I don’t know this woman, but who cares? If a man’s going to do a better job, put the man in there, because I just want to open my business.

Del Guidice: What would your message be to other women or other small business owners who might find themselves—and who probably have across this country—in similar situations where their business is shut down, they’re not sure what to do, they’re facing different restrictions or situations from their local or state or federal government?

What would your message be? Since you are someone who has been through a situation where you were shut down and have come through that.

Luther: I think it’s important to know that you’re born with some God-given inalienable rights and you don’t need the government to give you those rights. The government has been created to protect your rights.

So it’s very backward right now, and you’re not doing anything wrong by standing up and saying, “That’s not right.”

And that’s why we actually developed a show called “Courage to Stand,” where we are actually going to interview people that have stood up or done amazing things they never thought they would do. And they’re just regular people walking among us.

I want people to feel compelled and say, “That was a regular person. They’re out and doing something. I want to do that, too.” You are that person that can stand up, and you don’t have to be the leader, but you can be contributing positively to your community.

Del Guidice: Something that’s entered the national conversation and really become big recently is this situation of cancel culture, where we saw former President [Donald] Trump, he was censored from Twitter, taken off of Twitter. Then we’ve seen other organizations on Twitter being removed. They can no longer have their accounts.

And in some ways I think people could argue, you were almost canceled by the government shutting you down, and you were put in jail for a time. So what is your perspective of cancel culture and how do you think that should be combated?

Luther: I think that, as Americans, we are in charge of how things go. And if companies or certain people are doing things a certain way, we stop making a big deal about it and go somewhere else.

We are in control of where we spend our money. We are in control of whom we watch on TV. And … because people can’t operate without money, they need money, if we don’t spend our money in those places, then they’re going to have to do something different.

And we can whine and cry about it all we want, but we can’t practice free speech, liberty, all of these things, if we don’t honor it on the other side, too.

But I think there should be open communication on both sides. And we should be able to work things out openly on Twitter, on social media. But I think they canceled that out because they’re scared of what we’re saying and they know it’s the truth.

Del Guidice: As we wrap-up, just speaking about the truth, where do you suggest we go from here? There’s a lot of work to do. And we were talking about seeing people canceled, you’ve spent some time in jail. As we try to move on, where do you think we should go from here?

Luther: I think you should, if you are one of those people that want to be politically active, you need to find a group in your area and start participating and start being educated on what’s going on and stop voting for people because you like their personality or what they look like or what they tell you.

Look at voting records, it’s clear data, it’s black and white, and you should have your values. And if they go against those, you need to find somebody else.

And hopefully we get more regular people into office because those people are closer to the heartbeat of what’s going on in America, and we will make decisions based on what we’ve been through, not what we think other people should be doing.

Del Guidice: Well, Shelley, thank you so much for joining us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s been great having you with us.

Luther: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

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