Tattoo parlors to be regulated

Kenny McGee, the co-owner of Aces and Eights Tattoo & Piercings in Augusta, holds up a shader needle that he uses for tattooing. The Richmond County Board of Health is considering an ordinance that would regulate the practices of tattoo parlors.

Franklin Ward is about to get regulated by the Richmond County Board of Health, and he is "completely excited" about it.

Ward, a partner or owner of two tattoo studios in Augusta, is part of a group of tattoo artists who have been pushing for an ordinance to help weed out unscrupulous and "fly-by-night" operators. The board of health discussed the proposed ordinance Tuesday night and formed a subcommittee to study some issues raised by board attorney Harry Revell, including whether to require studios to carry liability insurance.

The subcommittee will likely meet in the next week or two, possibly with some tattoo artists, with a goal of reporting back at the monthly meeting in July.

Board member Jerry Brigham said he would like to see a public hearing in August and a vote no later than September. Randy Wishard, the county manager for environmental health, said he worked with a group of owners to help set up the new regulations for tattoo parlors.

"I'd never even been in one," he said.

The proposed ordinance requires, among other things, single-use needles and other supplies, sterilization techniques and informed consent, and forbids tattoos for anyone younger than 18, in addition to piercings, unless by written consent of a parent.

"All of the code they are trying to enact we've been doing for my whole career," said Ward, who has been in the business for 21 years. "This way, it just helps get other people on track with trying to be safe and do all of the proper stuff for the environment and people, and help legitimize our business."

About two years ago, the state of Georgia sent out guidelines for counties to follow in enacting tattoo ordinances, Wishard said. The Augusta tattoo artists looked at different ones around the state, and other states such as Texas, to pull different pieces together, said Kenny McGee, the co-owner of Aces and Eights Tattoo in Augusta. Augusta's draft ordinance is a "mix of six or seven ordinances" that also reflect best practices, he said.

"Nothing is unreasonable," McGee said.

"It keeps us safe and our customers safe," said Weylin Traugott, a tattoo artist and manager of Gunslingers Tattoo.

The new ordinance will also keep dishonest tattoo artists from gaining an advantage, Ward said.

"When people are trying to make more money, sometimes they will cut corners," he said. "It's going to keep the people who want to cut corners from doing that."

The ordinance would also ban mobile offices such as trailers, which sometimes set up shop at flea markets to offer cut-rate tattooing, said artist Frank Inglett.

The ordinance really isn't for those who are already doing the right thing, Wishard said. "This is for the people who don't do right."