CHICAGO (CBS) — Small town drama, or big time nonsense? Steve Matthews wants to bring his successful barbershop to Clarendon Hills, but some tiny print stopped his buzz.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory broke down the rules.

Matthews, owner of Mackhard Barber Shoppe, already runs two locations in Downers Grove, Naperville, and Elmhurst. But a fourth spot in Clarendon Hills might not make the cut.

Paint cans, cabinet parts, and unfinished floors have been abandoned mid-renovation, after the village declared the storefront he was fixing up is zoned for retail use, not service. So Matthews can’t operate a barbershop there.

Does he remember his reaction when he got the letter informing him of the zoning issue?

“I shouldn’t say that on camera, but yeah, I remember what I said, yeah,” he said.

The zoning issue didn’t make sense to Matthews, because the same storefront was home to hair salons for 39 years until the most recent owner retired.

“June 1st, I put the sign up for rent, and I didn’t know what to expect,” said Matthews’ landlord, Susan Hanlon.

Hanlon said she did expect another salon would be able to move in, even though the building is zoned for retail. She argued her space should be grandfathered in for hair service.

Zoning rules show it technically is, but only for a certain amount of months, and there’s a question if Hanlon properly followed the timeline.

Hanlon said her first prospective tenant went to village hall, and came back to tell her “everything was so confusing.”

A second potential hair stylist also inquired about Hanlon’s storefront.

“They went to the village hall. We never saw them again,” she said.

She still hopes the third time will be the charm. Matthews is waiting on a zoning appeal six months after he signed the lease, and thousands of dollars in repairs later. He has argued his business can be considered retail, because he sells men’s grooming products.

Regardless, he doesn’t understand why the village is being such sticklers on zoning rules when it seems Clarendon Hills is in need of any stores it can get. He said Clarendon Hills has only one other barber shop.

“I mean, half the storefronts are empty here; it’s depressing, it’s sleepy, and it doesn’t need to be,” he said.

The community development director in Clarendon Hills wasn’t in the office when CBS 2 dropped by, but later sent an email saying retail is required in Hanlon’s storefront as part of the village’s “comprehensive plan.”

Hanlon is not charging Matthews rent while the case is under review by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The case is up for discussion next month.

Lauren Victory