Tattoo artists still peeved over D.C. regulations


Angela Diorio, of McLean, Va., has work done to her back tattoo by James Haun of Fatty’s Custom Tattooz at the D.C. Tattoo Expo last year in Arlington. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

It has been nearly a year since the D.C. Department of Health first proposed regulations governing the city’s body art industry. That initial draft, you may recall, did not go over particularly well — especially the proposal to impose a 24-hour waiting period for tattoos and piercings in a bid, as one official put it, to ensure consumers were “in the right frame of mind” before indulging in the irreversible.

The Health Department said earlier this year that it had jettisoned the waiting-period proposal. A new set of proposed regulations published last month did not include any waiting period, nor did it require body artists to refuse service to customers they suspect of having a communicable disease — a potential civil-rights violation, some argued.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and lollipops in the body-art world. Other provisions in the new draft have riled some business owners, who are circulating a petition opposing rules that they say would “create crippling financial burdens on tax paying business owners and body art practitioners, would unintentionally prohibit all tattooing, and would most certainly lead to the closing of several businesses.”

The petition was drafted by Fatty, proprietor of Fatty’s Tattoos & Piercings and a leader in the D.C. Coalition of Professional Body Artists, a trade group that organized after the waiting-period proposal emerged. The revised regulations, Fatty said Tuesday, represent just as much of an existential threat.

“They’re requiring us to do things that don’t exist,” said Fatty, né Matt Jessup, who pointed to a requirement that “[a]ll body artists shall use hollow needles.” Hollow needles are used for piercings, he said, but there is no such thing in the tattoo world.

The new rules also require businesses to use city-licensed equipment suppliers when there are, in fact, no such suppliers in the city. Another touchy proposal involves requiring the posting of three signs publicizing various health risks purportedly associated with body art, including potential allergic reactions, skin infections and the transmission of blood-borne diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Some of the particular risks listed, Fatty said, are not supported by research.

Industry representatives met with Health Department officials after the ill-received first draft, and Fatty said the meeting seemed to have gone well. “They seemed to acknowledge that that first round of regulations was inappropriate,” he said. “Leaving that meeting, I thought they had heard us, but apparently not.”

Now, he added, “there’s probably going to be an even larger response. We’re organized, and we’re ready to go.” An online petition — separate from the one Fatty has drafted — has garnered more than 700 supporters.

A spokeswoman for the Health Department did not return an e-mail seeking comment Wednesday. Comments are being accepted, including online, until Aug. 23.

Here is Fatty’s petition in full:

To whom it may concern,

I am a member of the body art community and/or a supporter of the basic American values of free speech and self determination. I am in favor of fair, concise, and enforceable body art regulations in our nation’s capital and support the decision of Washington, D.C. lawmakers to provide basic protections for consumers and practitioners of the body art industry. I have read the recent second draft of proposed Body Art Establishment Regulations. I do not feel that these proposed regulations meet any of this criteria and am writing to explain my strong opposition to them.

I can not support sloppily written regulations that betray a complete misunderstanding of the trade they intend to safeguard. The regulations that I oppose include, but are not limited to:

The unfair requirement of signage that lists unsupported claims of health risks.

The required use of tools that do not exist (hollow tattoo needles).

The inclusion of building requirements that surpass what is already required by the city for a Certificate of Occupancy.

The body art supply regulations that require practitioners to purchase only from suppliers registered in the District of Columbia despite the fact that no such supplier exists.

The provisions in the proposed regulations would create crippling financial burdens on tax paying business owners and body art practitioners, would unintentionally prohibit all tattooing, and would most certainly lead to the closing of several businesses.

As a supporter of body art and free speech, I hope that the D.C. Department of Health will abandon the second draft of proposed body art regulations and seek assistance and education on body art practices from professional body artists before proposing further regulations.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

local

mike-debonis

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local

local

mike-debonis

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Mike DeBonis · August 12, 2014