The only tattoo shop in Grovetown might become a monopoly if city leaders enact the area’s toughest restrictions today.
City council members are expected to approve an ordinance that would allow only licensed physicians to perform tattoos and body piercings.
“We felt like it was just the healthiest way to (regulate tattoo artists),” Mayor George James said. “It doesn’t keep them out, but it does make it more restrictive.”
James said the ordinance limits the health risks of piercing and tattooing. The proposed ordinance also requires payment of an annual licensing fee by tattoo shops.
The Columbia County Board of Health, on which James sits, worked with Columbia County commissioners to put a body art ordinance in place in early 2012 to ensure that tattoos and piercings are conducted in a clean, safe environment. That ordinance, which local tattoo artists were involved in developing, regulates sanitary and safety procedures.
“So far, the tattoo ordinance in Columbia County is working out great,” said county Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Andrea Frazier. “It all seems to be going good.”
Electric Avenue, Grovetown’s only tattoo shop, falls under the county ordinance and, like other county shops, is inspected annually. That shop and its owner, artist Brad Thomas, will be grandfathered into the city ordinance and will be able to continue operating under the guidelines that were in place when he opened the shop on Robinson Avenue in August.
Thomas said he doesn’t believe city leaders are proposing the ordinance as a way to keep tattoo shops out of Grovetown.
“Obviously, they could have made me conform,” Thomas said. Because he’s not a physician, conforming to the new city ordinance would mean closing his shop or getting a physician to tattoo there.
“I don’t think it’s routed to be against the tattoo community,” he said. “It’s not like there’s not choices.”
He doesn’t think the ordinance will harm his business, to which many people come from outside the city. Numerous tattoo shops are within a 10-minute drive of the city.
It’s just “people making choices that they feel are best for their city,” Thomas said.