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No for City Council : Tattoo Studio Put on Hold by Claremont Council

March 31, 1994|MIKE CARLSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A tattoo studio has gotten under the skin of the Claremont City Council.

Claremont Tattoo operated with no complaints for 18 months out of a store on Foothill Boulevard. But then the business moved to 225 Yale Ave. in the heart of The Village, a shopping district a block from City Hall.

The relocation put the needle to council members and other Village merchants, who feel a tattoo studio would attract an unsavory crowd and spoil the shopping area's family atmosphere.

So the council, citing a lack of health regulations governing the tattoo industry, approved an urgency ordinance that prohibits the studio from opening for four months. During that time, the city will investigate the risks of spreading disease via the use and disposal of the needles used in tattooing.

Such an action is authorized under a state Government Code section that allows the council to adopt, by a four-fifths majority, an urgency ordinance necessary for "the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety." The measure passed, 4-1, with Councilman Nicholas L. Presecan the sole dissenter.

The March 22 decision, which came a day after the studio opened, left the shop's owners shaking their heads.

"They're looking for something to throw us out on and they haven't (found it), so they've come up with this," said co-manager Leah Pierce.

"They feel they're too uppity to have a tattoo shop in their city," said Pierce, who runs the family-owned studio with her brother, Buddy Tanner. She emphasized that the shop, which already has a retail sales license and sells incense, silver jewelry and temporary tattoos as well as permanent ones, never had any problems from the city at its old location.

"My brother tattooed over 25 Pomona police officers, some teachers and some housewives. We get a lot of students. It's not your 'Hell's Angels-type' clientele. We use disposable needles and have a hazardous-waste company come pick them up," Pierce said.

"It's just blatant discrimination," she said. 'We were closer to Pomona at our last location, and they must have figured we were far enough away. Now that we're one block from City Hall, we're just too close to them," said Pierce, who said she is researching the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the city.

But city officials say public safety, not location, is the major reason for the four-month wait.

"There are lots of needles in this process and no (legal) regulations as to how they can be disposed. There seems to be a real void in health regulations here," City Manager Glenn D. Southard said.

A city report on the proposed tattoo studio quotes a study by the Centers for Disease Control that describes tattooing as "a process by which blood-borne pathogens, including . . . hepatitis B virus and HIV, may be transmitted to or from customers and employees."

Like Los Angeles County and many other cities, Claremont has no health or safety regulations that apply specifically to tattoo parlors, and California state law only prohibits tattooing of minors.

The city staff will use the moratorium to formulate city code amendments that would regulate tattoo parlors, Southard said. In the meantime, he said the city is willing to allow the studio to sell its silver jewelry and other items so that it can stay in business.

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