Hardre et al. v. Markey et al.

Colorado barbershop owner fights for his right to equality before the law

Cases > Equality Under the Law > Hardre et al. v. Markey et al.
Closed: Case was dismissed as unripe.

Etienne Hardre was forced to close his barbershop in Colorado Springs, CO, at the start of the pandemic and has operated at reduced capacity since. He worked tirelessly to find relief programs and grants that would allow him to keep his business afloat and provide for the livelihood of his family and employees. In December, the Governor signed legislation to provide four million dollars in relief to small businesses, but only those owned by racial minorities. Although the law was subsequently amended, it still gives preference to minority-owned businesses in distributing COVID relief. Etienne is fighting back against the unconstitutional treatment of individuals as members of racial groups. He’s asking the United States District Court for the District of Colorado to invalidate Colorado’s unconstitutional COVID-relief program and affirm that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Etienne Hardre sells confidence. When his clients leave his barbershop, he wants them to love the way they look and feel. In fact, the shop’s tagline is “We don’t sell haircuts, we give you confidence.”

A hardworking father and husband, Etienne has been in the business world his entire career. But he had never actually owned a business until he purchased “Locals Barbershop” from a friend in 2014.

After six years of pouring his heart and soul into the company, the barbershop was thriving. In just two and a half years after he took over, revenue had doubled, and Etienne was able to expand the barbershop from 1,500 sq ft to 3,000.

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to state-wide closures of many businesses, Etienne’s barbershop, like other small businesses, was in jeopardy. Using every relief program and grant opportunity at his disposal, he did what he could to save his company and make sure his employees were taken care of while they waited for the lockdown to end. He even began mentoring other small businesses in the area, teaching them about their options and showing them how to apply for any financial relief available to them.

Barely managing to keep Locals Barbershop afloat, Etienne relentlessly called every political representative he could to look for solutions, from the Governor’s office to members of Congress. He wanted to know when his shop could reopen and what he could do to keep his business afloat.

Even when businesses were allowed to reopen—at reduced capacity and with other restrictions—Etienne did whatever he could to make up for the revenue his business lost during March and April 2020. But he needed more help. So when he learned that state representatives were working on passing a bill that would offer relief to small businesses, Etienne was hopeful.

But when the relief package was passed, his hopes were dashed when he learned he wouldn’t qualify for financial assistance because of his race.

Even after the law had been amended, Etienne still felt injustice stemming from a law that disadvantaged his barbershop and its hardworking employees just because it was not minority owned.

This law unfairly treats people not as individuals, but as members of racial groups they didn’t choose. It’s also unconstitutional: The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals from being discriminated against due to arbitrary classifications and guarantees every American equality before the law.

Represented by PLF free of charge, Etienne is fighting for his right to equality before the law.

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What’s at stake?

  • Colorado cannot use racial preferences to grant COVID-19 relief to minority-owned businesses. Doing so is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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February 18, 2021

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