By Sue Botos
As part of a package which will update several codified ordinances, City Council is getting ready to ink permanent legislation dealing with the establishment of tattoo parlors.
The measure, which also addresses body piercing, was approved by the planning commission at its November meeting and has been referred to council, which is expected to have opened discussion at its Tuesday committee session.
In September 2011, the planning commission turned down a request by tattooist Harry Lawrence to open a shop at 20130 Center Ridge Road in a building shared by the J&C Chinese Restaurant. Much of the discussion centered on the definition of the business as local, used by area patrons, or general, frequented primarily by out-of-town customers. The building Lawrence had in mind is zoned for local business.
A number of residents also attended the hearings, expressing concern over the business and the type of clientele it would draw.
In response, council passed legislation placing a moratorium on zoning for tattoo parlors.
At its November meeting, planning commission members broached the subject of banning body art boutiques from the city. However, Law Director Andy Bemer told the commission that tattooing is protected by the First Amendment. “You can regulate it, but you can’t control it,” he stated.
Ordinance sponsor Michael O’Donnell noted that the legislative bundle, which includes changes in city code regarding setback requirements and home occupation regulations, is significant in that it also addresses body piercing, a service often performed in tattoo parlors. He added that the age requirement for customers was also raised from 18 to 21.
The ordinance states that tattoo and body piercing shops cannot be established within 500 feet of a residential district, school, public library, church or community center. The businesses must be licensed, at an annual cost of $25, and adhere to strict health and sanitary codes. Permanent records of each patron must also be maintained, detailing all services rendered.
Tattoo and body piercing establishments are also defined as general business in the ordinance, and not a “service establishment” that serves mostly local residents, such as a beauty salon. Also excluded from this definition are health clubs and household item repair shops, which do not primarily serve the neighboring area.
Council is expected to hear a full three readings on the ordinance.