PRINCESS ANNE — A tattoo artist trying to open his business in Princess Anne received no commitment from the Town Commissioners that they will delete a requirement in the code that says "All tattooing shall be done by or under the direct supervision of a physician or osteopath."
Instead, elected leaders showed interest in making sure such businesses are licensed and insured and not operating in the historic district.
Robert West has a unit in Princess Anne Village ready to open but he is not a medical doctor nor does he have one on staff. During the Sept. 20 work session, he said the town’s ordinance is "very solid" but the physician requirement "is a bit much."
While there are doctors who tattoo over surgical scars, "They’re not doing Hello Kitty tattoos" and it would not be their primary line of work to pay off medical school tuition. "The main concern," Mr. West said, "is diseases, being unsafe, or uncleanliness," adding that his certifications show he’s been instructed in bloodborne pathogens and first aid.
"The tattooing field is a completely different branch from being a doctor. There’s not the same amount of risk. It’s a sterile environment," Mr. West said. There is a questionnaire regarding health of the person requesting the service, and he recommends they eat before a session starts so their blood sugar level is high. He said people can pass out, but it’s never happened to him.
Mr. West suggested commissioners see what other county ordinances require, and "take whatever seems appropriate from them, something a little bit easier for people to conduct business."
The town’s ordinance as written allows tattoo shops in General Commercial C-2 zones only after a special exception is approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals — which will hold a public hearing. The ordinance does not permit them in other zones, including downtown.
The code cites health and sanitary requirements, the maintenance of records about customers for at least two years, and a reporting mandate to the health department if an infection occurs.
Licensing, once granted by the commissioners, is valid for three years.
When questions about insurance were raised, Kip Grangier, who has a tattoo parlor outside of town limits, described the coverage he carries. His $2 million umbrella policy "covers from the windows in" from property damage to infection.
"We’re putting a foreign matter in their body, and your antibodies change that make you susceptible to other illnesses," he said. "The insurance must cover if a person gets sick because of a tattoo, not slipping and falling. It’s protecting the individual."
He teaches a class on bloodborne pathogens and said for example if a customer is diabetic they may be slow to heal leading to infection which in the worst case could lead to necrosis and amputation. In addition to licensing his insurer wants information on how his sharp instruments are disposed of.
"A medical waste company picks them up, we just don’t throw them in the trash," he said.
In business for 15 years he was at the town meeting in 2006 when the present ordinance was passed but the industry "has grown leaps and bounds" since then. He said the ordinance is antiquated and discriminatory against tattoo artists and it’s why his business is located outside of town.
It’s also why there are no similar shops in Ocean City, which was the model for the town’s ordinance.
Town resident Manda Crown who has four tattoos said it’s not surgery and while it should not be entered into lightly there’s never been a doctor present. In fact, a physician "may scare off some people as to why is this necessary." She said tattoo artists she’s encountered have been very knowledgeable, calling the ordinance outdated when body art today are more mainstream.
With the proximity of UMES, Ms. Crown said, having a location walkable for students would be convenient "and would do well in the town limits if done properly."
Commissioner President Lionel Frederick mentioned insurance he has for his lawn care business which includes if a property is damaged.
"All businesses in town should be licensed and insured," he said.
Town attorney Paul Wilber said there are two kinds of coverage for a business like this, premises insurance and malpractice like a doctor would carry.
Vice President Garland Hayward said the major concern for the commissioners is the health and welfare of the citizens who patronize businesses in town, and whether or not there is support to amend the ordinance.
There was no timetable on when a review of other ordinances would occur but for Mr. West it appears hope is fading that an amendment favorable to tattoo artistry inside the town would be approved before late fall or winter, which was his goal.
As for Mr. Grangier, he recently moved from his former location at King’s Creek Market to a house at 11347 Stewart Neck Road, which may appear to be in town but is located outside the corporate limits.