Balancing the First Amendment and city rules; leaders in Delray Beach are close to an agreement on how to regulate tattoo studios.
Courts have ruled a tattoo is a form of art, protected by free speech laws. But city leaders in Delray Beach said that doesn't mean they can't regulate where studios can and cannot set up shop.
Jeff Kozan owns VT Studios in downtown Delray Beach. His art hangs on the wall, but the only problem for the tattoo artist is he's not allowed to tattoo here.
“It’s just been a waiting game,” he said.
He's waiting for city leaders to decide how to regulate tattoo parlors. Previously there were no rules, so studios simply weren't allowed.
“Ever since I’ve became a tattoo artist, I felt like Delray was the perfect place [to open a shop],” explained Kozan, who owns a studio in Fort Lauderdale.
Artists like Kozan and Rebecca Loveless challenged the city’s stance on studios.
They got some help from Florida’s Supreme Court which ruled cities can't prohibit tattoo studios.
So city staff spent the past four months drafting rules on how to regulate them. City commissioners gave initial approval to the rules last week. They’ll finalize the proposal next week.
“It allows people to open in certain areas,” said Mayor Cary Glickstein. “We will avoid an over concentration of something that we've never permitted in the past. And like other uses, there are certain rules you have to follow.”
Those regulations include only operating between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., staying 300ft away from churches and schools, not having shops on Atlantic Avenue downtown, or along A1A, and not tattooing in view from the public right of way.
The city attorney pointed to statistics linking crime and gangs to tattoo establishments as a justification for some regulations.
“We can either acknowledge [the correlation] or we can ignore it and the city chose to acknowledge it and deal with it in the form of regulations,” Glickstein said.
Kozan said part of that mindset is outdated. A Harris Poll showed 30 percent of Americans have a tattoo, up from 20 percent in 2012. And 47 percent of millennials have ink.
Kozan sees judges, baristas, and everything in between at his Fort Lauderdale studio.
“Whether it's a memory of someone they lost, or matching tattoos for fun, we see all walks of life,” he said.
The city's rules may be different than anywhere else, but Kozan is hopeful commissioners will pass the ordinance. He'll cherish the opportunity to do what he loves in his hometown.
“I’m excited for it to be finished and get in here and start doing tattoos,” he said.