John Laurent

John Laurent hopes to operate Old Town Elk Grove’s first tattoo parlor, on the second floor of the Bob’s Club building. In his hands is a photograph of his brother, Sam, who died in 2019 and was John’s mentor as a tattoo artist.

The Elk Grove City Council on May 26 unanimously directed the city’s staff to initiate the process for tattoo parlors to operate in Old Town Elk Grove through Conditional Use Permits (CUPs).

With that unanimous vote, related revisions to the Old Town Special Planning Area – which regulates land uses in that area – will be reviewed by both the Elk Grove Planning Commission and the City Council this summer. A tattoo parlor could be operating with a CUP in Old Town by this fall – no earlier than September or October.

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen shared her support for allowing tattoo parlors to operate in Old Town.

“This will bring a lot of value to Old Town,” she said.

Singh-Allen also spoke against adding limitations to the operations of such businesses.

“The idea of limiting the operational hours and days of the week, I don’t think that’s the business that we should be in,” she said.

Council Member Pat Hume spoke about his own support for the ability of a tattoo parlor to operate in Old Town.

“I can guarantee you that right now we have people with tattoos eating, shopping and utilizing the services in Old Town Elk Grove,” he said. “What we don’t have are people who want tattoos that would also eat and shop and use the services in Old Town Elk Grove.

“We’re on an amazing trajectory down there. I mean, you can feel the energy that that place is just ready to break loose when you go down to Old Town these days.”

Through the council’s support of allowing tattoo parlors to operate in Old Town Elk Grove with a conditional use permit, John Laurent, a tattoo artist, is hopeful that he can establish his own tattoo parlor in a business space above Bob’s Club at 9039 Elk Grove Blvd.

Laurent, who attended Elk Grove High School, told the Citizen that he was humbled by the council members’ comments. He noted that a few Council Members mentioned they have tattoos.

“I just can’t thank the council enough for all the support,” he said. “To hear (that some of them) have tattoos as well – that they don’t show off, but they have them – and then knowing that it is acceptable to have them and it’s not a criminal thing. To hear them say all the good things about me and tattooing, in general, is just overwhelming.”

Laurent, who was mentored as a tattoo artist by his now-deceased brother, Sam, added that his dream of operating a tattoo shop in Elk Grove became even more meaningful after his brother died in 2019 of sudden cardiac arrest related to epilepsy.

“I moved back here in 2011 to open a shop with my brother,” he said. “For this to actually come true, it means everything to me, my family. What I’d like to do is create some type of nonprofit with my business on the gallery side, (to) have all proceeds go to the study of epilepsy and other charities.”

The council’s unanimous, May 26 vote occurred more than a decade after the council, through a 3-2 vote, decided to prohibit the operation of tattoo parlors in Old Town.

Since the establishment of that prohibition, the state adopted the Safe Body Art Act, which prohibits tattoos for those 17 years old and younger, and requires tattoo establishments to obtain annual inspections and training, and a health permit from the county.

Elk Grove became home to its first tattoo parlor – Emerald Tattoo on Elk Grove-Florin Road – in 2016.

Interest in the issue of the establishment of tattoo parlors in Old Town reemerged last February through individuals seeking to open such a business in Old Town.

Christopher Jordan, the city’s director of strategic planning and innovation, told the council that through informal outreach conducted by the city, it was determined that there was some concern with the idea of adding tattoo parlors in Old Town.

He identified some of those concerns as a potential deterrent to some types of businesses interested in operating in Old Town, and possible unfavorable business-to-business interactions.

However, during the council’s recent hearing on this issue, all of the public comments were in support of permitting the operation of tattoo parlors in Old Town.

Among those public speakers was Elk Grove resident Randy Bekker, who noted that a tattoo parlor should be treated like any other business, without prohibitions and restrictions.

“I think it’s time to recognize tattoo parlors and services of piercing as it needs to be done and treated as a business that it actually is, in comparison (to) how it has been dealt with in years past,” he said.

Bekker also mentioned that a tattoo parlor in Old Town would be positive for adding to the diversity of that area.

Sam Richardson, a local real estate agent and a 25-year resident of Elk Grove, was among the public speakers who specifically supported Laurent’s desire to operate his business in Old Town.

“I think having a local artist who cares about Elk Grove and its people right in the heart of Old Town is a great benefit to the city and Old Town,” he said. “We don’t want to be seen as a city that discriminates against businesses, especially after the extremely hard year that local businesses just had during COVID(-19). I would love for us to be seen as a city where local businesses thrive and have a chance to be successful.”

Bob’s Club operator Allan Veto Jr. also endorsed Laurent.

“I am totally up for John Laurent coming to Old Town Elk Grove with his art,” he said. “I would never do this or allow this (if he did not believe in Laurent),” he said.

“I work so hard to run a good business and to run off negativity, and I would never lease or rent any part of our properties to anybody that wasn’t going to bring goodness and bring the best quality work, and just business ethics.”

Veto added that because of the demand for Laurent’s tattoo work, his business would not lead to a lot of random foot traffic.

“Everybody’s worried about people walking in or walking out,” he said. “Man, John Laurent, you get on his Instagram page and try to get an appointment with (him). Right now, I think he’s taking dates in September for you to get an appointment.”