Stickin’ it to Ya

By Alex Distefano

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Posted September 1, 2011 in News

People who were planning on getting a tattoo or a piercing in Riverside County after next month can feel a bit safer, thanks to a new ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors, which regulates all 103 tattoo/piercing businesses in the county, including those in unincorporated areas.

“County Ordinance number 907 was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in Riverside on Aug. 16, and becomes effective 30 days after adoption,” confirmed Debra Cournoyer, a principal management analyst for the county.

The newly passed ordinance mandates that all tattoo and piercing professionals attend blood-borne pathogen training, and creates new standards for equipment sterilization and all tattoo/piercing procedures. According to the Board of Supervisors, this was done in the interest of public health, and would help to prevent infections spread by tattoo needles and diseases.

Cathy Hennessy, owner and artist at Mission Tattoo in Riverside, told the Weekly she sees no negative effects of the ordinance and fully supports the new regulations. “We need to have regulations in this industry, and all shops should follow them,” she says. “In the end, we’re all artists, selling our art. But these regulations will be for our clients. If shops don’t want to follow these rules it’s an injustice to their clients.”

Hennessy, who has been an artist for just over a decade, and ink slinging in the Riverside area for just under a decade, says that for her own success as an artist and business owner, she—along with everyone else in the industry—has to comply with the county’s Health Department.

“Having guidelines for me is a good thing,” she says. “We work closely with the Health department on a one-to-one basis, and have been for several years.”

And if you ask Brian Foster, of the famed Inkaholics in Moreno Valley (two locations), he fully supports the regulations (“I want to be clear, I am a professional,” he says. “I also work with the county’s Health Department; we have to operate our business and we need a permit from them.”), but he’s got some issues with the ordinance. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Foster says there are several things that he objects to, things that would adversely affect shop owners and artists. This includes a requirement that all artists wear sterile gloves rather than basic exam gloves for all procedures. Foster says that basic exam gloves are used by health care providers such as dentists and are more than adequate for piercing and tattooing. Using the more expensive sterile gloves for all procedures would be more expensive and unnecessary.

“Some other parts of this law had nothing at all to do with sanitation,” he says.

For instance, all artists will be required to get fingerprinted and checked against a sex-offender database.

“Now, we’re all going to have to go down to the police station, get ID’d and pay a $70 processing fee for this,” Foster says. “Honestly, I feel it’s a waste of time and money. We don’t deal with minors unless they are with their parents and have ID. This sex offender clause has absolutely nothing to do with sanitation and tattoos. It’s all to make the politicians look good in the headlines.”

And finally, Foster objects to the portion of the new ordinance that states tattoo and piercing businesses must stay at least 1,250 feet away from schools, parks or anywhere children may gather.

“Usually the cities are in charge of zoning when we get our business permits,” he says. “I don’t think the county has any authority over that. It’s called ‘commercial zoning,’ which is why most tattoo shops are [mostly] located in strip malls, next to other businesses with parking lots. But most of them are all located [near] schools, churches, parks, libraries and other places where children could be. In my opinion, this is a slow way for the politicians to push out tattoo shops from the area.”


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