Tattoo parlor green-lighted for Old Town

Photo by Keri Wood - The proposed site of what would be Elk Grove’s first tattoo and piercing shop is in Old Town Elk Grove, which has strict guidelines about the types of businesses that are allowed in the area. The guidelines were adopted in 2005.

The Elk Grove Planning Commission approved the proposal to open Elk Grove’s first tattoo and piercing shop in Old Town at its Oct. 1 meeting.

The decision will become official on Oct. 13, unless a written appeal is filed with the city. If the project is appealed, it will have to go before the city council for approval.

Patrick McGuire, owner of Capital Ink Tattoos and Body Piercing in Old Sacramento, said he knows there’s demand for a tattoo shop in Elk Grove.

“The reason why I want to open a tattoo shop in Elk Grove is because people are traveling from Elk Grove to get tattoos at my shop,” he said.

However, he ran into trouble when he proposed the tattoo and piercing shop to the city’s planning department.

Old Town Elk Grove is governed by a Special Planning Area document, which regulates the types of businesses allowed in the area.

It encourages bakeries, delis, beauty shops, offices and other uses, but doesn’t specially list tattoo shops. The Elk Grove Zoning Code also states that tattoo parlors “may tend to have a blighting and/or deteriorating effect upon surrounding areas.”

That led the planning department to deny McGuire’s application.

In an Aug. 31 letter, Planning Department Director Don Hazen said tattoo parlors are only allowed on a case-by-case basis in shopping centers or general commercial areas.

“Following review of the use table, I determined that there is no use that is allowed in the SPA that is sufficiently similar to the proposed tattoo parlor and therefore, it is the intent of the SPA that the tattoo use not be allowed,” Hazen wrote.

Old Town businesses have mixed opinions of proposed shop

David Ardisson, co-owner of the adjacent Sign Center, declined to be interviewed for this story, but in an e-mail to the planning commission he said that Old Town should be for family businesses.

“I think a tattoo and body piercing shop would only bring more undesirables to our city,” he wrote.

In an interview at his Old Town antique store, The Red Door owner David Hipskind said he’s against the idea of having a tattoo parlor nearby.

“I don’t think that at all fits in with the concept of what Old Town should be,” he said. “The customer that it would attract is not the customer I’m trying to reach.”

In a letter to Hazen, Old Town Foundation President John Lambdin said the business “would not be a good fit” for Old Town.

“The proximity to the school and other shops that cater to children and families that are located near the proposed site would not make this the best location for the tattoo parlor,” he wrote.

Lambdin did not return calls from the Citizen.

Other nearby businesses are more receptive to the idea.

Pete Carroll, owner of King of Clubs Golf, said tattoo parlors should be treated “just like any other business.

“If they have good practices and follow regulations, what’s the difference between that and an art shop?” he said.

Allan Veto, a longtime employee of Bob’s Club and the son of its owner, said the city shouldn’t be putting restrictions on businesses.

“Any kind of business is a good business for Elk Grove, as long as it’s a clean business,” Veto said.

Commissioners support proposal, hesitant to change Old Town rules

After questioning McGuire on some of the plans he has for the shop, planning commissioners largely rejected the criticism the plan had faced.

Commissioner Fedolia Harris said tattooing is a historic form of art.

“I was going through my mind, trying to think of old towns in Northern California that don’t have tattoo parlors,” he said.

Commission chair Brian Villanueva said the “heavily restrictive” planning area document is one of the reasons Old Town has struggled, but expressed reservations about going against it.

“I’m very uncomfortable with the idea that we are effectively saying, ‘We’ve written this to be incredibly restrictive, but we’re not really going to enforce it that way,’” Villanueva said. “Well, if you’re not going to enforce it that way, then the solution is to change it.”

The commission directed Hazen to make allowing case-by-case approval of certain types of businesses, like tattoo shops and palm readers, part of the future amendment of the Special Planning Area document later this year.

Commissioner Frank Maita, who owns a business near the site of the proposed tattoo parlor, left the chambers to avoid a possible conflict of interest.