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Council inks tattoo law into effect

The Oak Harbor City Council erased a ban on tattoo businesses Tuesday night.

Several practitioners of permanent cosmetics, a type of tattooing, spoke against the ban during a a special council meeting. They complained that the ordinance is outdated and hurts their business.

“I fear this will jeopardize my livelihood,” said Mary Tacia, who runs her own permanent cosmetic business north of the city. She brought the issue to the council’s attention after city staff revoked her license to perform permanent cosmetics at Studio M.

The city council passed the ordinance prohibiting tattooing within the city limits 10 years ago. The law cited concerns with infection, the spread of disease and disfigurement.

Since then, things have changed.

City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said there were no state laws regulating tattooing back when the ban was passed, but now strong laws regulate the health-related aspects of the practice.

Permanent cosmetics — also called micro-pigmentation — has skyrocketed in popularity, becoming downright mainstream, while tattoos have also become more common.

Terry Zamzow, who runs Awakenings in Coupeville, said her customers include four women who are in their 80s. She suggested that tattooing was banned because of the stigma associated with tattoo parlors.

“I think people were worried about what kind of riffraff would show up downtown,” she said.

Zamzow said Oak Harbor is the only city in the state that bans tattooing.

Bleyhl presented the council with two options: either change the ordinance to allow permanent cosmetic procedures or revoke the ban altogether. Under questioning, he urged the council to do the latter.

“It would be very difficult to go back,” he said, “and repair the ordinance so that you could justify the difference.”

Tammy Kelly of Forever Pretty 123 agreed. “The law should be for everybody,” she said. “It should not be made for one person.”

She argued that it would be wrong to tweak the ordinance to allow just permanent cosmetic businesses and not regular tattooing. She said there’s no difference.

“It is what it is,” she said. “We’re just tattooing your faces.”

Several council members admitted to having a little bit of bias. Councilman Paul Brewer said he has a couple of tattoos. Councilman Richard Davis said his “oldest sweet daughter came home with a tattoo.” Councilwoman Sheilah Crider said she has friends who have permanent cosmetics.

All three agreed that it’s time to get rid of the ordinance.

“As long as it’s a legal and ethical business,” Davis said, “why would we not want it in our borders?”

Only Councilman Paggao spoke against lifting the ban. “I can still envision the tattoo parlors like I’ve seen in other places,” he said.

But in the end, Paggao was overruled; the council voted the ban away.

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