Meriden votes to lift ‘unneccesary’ ban on tattoo, body piercing shops

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MERIDEN — The city’s long-standing prohibition on tattoo and body piercing shops will end next month as the City Council voted recently to eliminate the  ban. 

The council voted 9-1 to eliminate language that prevented tattoo and body piercing businesses from opening in commercial zones where other personal service businesses, like barbershops and nail salons, are allowed.

“It’s unnecessary,” City Planner Renata Bertotti said this week. Bertotti, hired in 2018, didn’t know exactly why or when the regulation was approved, but said it has been in place for at least 13 years.  

“I feel that this is not a use that is really problematic in any way, and I think most of why it was prohibited has to do with (negative stigmas around tattoos), which may have been true in the past, but every single woman in my yoga class has a tattoo,” Bertotti said.

City Council Majority Leader David Lowell agreed, saying “body art has become more and more popular over the last couple generations, so, for many people, it’s a form of expression and for many people, it's very personal.”

“Far be it for me to restrict their ability to get it in this community,” Lowell said, adding state agencies will have oversight over any tattoo or body piercing businesses that opens in Meriden. 

Fellow Democrat Bruce A. Fontanella, the only councilor who voted against lifting the ban, said while he personally has no issues with tattoos or piercings, he doesn’t believe tattoo parlors will benefit the city’s economic development profile.

“Tattoo parlors and piercing establishments aren't the type of businesses that would attract other types of businesses that we want to have come to Meriden — you know, convenience stores, restaurants — and they aren't really conducive to the types of commercial neighborhoods we’re trying to build in Meriden,” he said.

The issue recently came up when a resident asked Bertotti if he would be permitted to open a tattoo shop in South Meriden, at which point Bertotti researched it and realized, “not only could he not open there, he couldn’t open anywhere.” 

While the city has a few tattoo and body piercing establishments, those businesses opened prior to the prohibition on new establishments. 

Opening the door

Lifting the prohibition may open the door for a “wave” of young artists, said Diego Palmares, tattoo artist at Turnpike Tattoo & Body Piercing in the city’s north end. 

After starting his tattoo career in upstate New York years back, the 40-year-old city native returned to his hometown hoping to open a parlor in Meriden, but was told he would need to open in a surrounding town due to the prohibition. Other towns that allow tattoo parlors include Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire. 

“I was like, ‘Damn, I’m from Meriden. My goal would be to open up in Meriden,’” he said. 

Palmares called the recent repeal the “best news tattoo-related that we've heard in a while” and said he will still look to open his own shop. 

“Tattoos used to be associated with crimes, but now a lot of people have tattoos — doctors, lawyers, police officers, nurses,” he said. “It's way more accepted in society today, so I definitely think a tattoo shop would thrive downtown.”

The change will take effect Feb. 4, according to Bertotti. Rather than creating new regulations for tattoo and body piercing businesses, Bertotti said the establishments will be treated like other “personal service” businesses.
Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

Turnpike Tattoo and Body Piercing, 1919 N. Broad St., predates a ban on tattoo parlors in Meriden. City officials voted recently to lift the "unnecessary" ban. | Dave Zajac, Record-Journal

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