D.C. mandates 24-hour tattoo wait period, tattoo artists outraged

WASHINGTON – If you feel the urge to immediately get some fresh body ink, you may have to wait 24-hours. The tattoo-inclined can thank D.C.’s Department of Health for the hand sitting. In late August, a 66-page code of regulations was proposed for tattoo parlors in D.C that mandates a waiting period between when a customer requests a tattoo or piercing and when the service can be provided.

The law states, “The licensee or operator of a body art establishment shall ensure that no tattoo artist applies any tattoo to a customer until after twenty-four (24) hours have passed since the customer first requested the tattoo,” state the regulations. Similar wording was used for piercings.

The regulation intends to save people from “next-day regrets” says Health Department officials. The city’s department of health also states public safety issues as the cause of the mandates.

Matt Knopp, owner of the acclaimed Tattoo Paradise in Adams Morgan, who delightfully peppers every other word with an expletive, says the regulations are “bullsh*t.”

Knopp says that the proposed list of mandates infringes too strongly on peoples’ rights for individual expression, “You’re going to tell an adult he can’t do something? I can have buyer’s remorse from buying a car, but no one is stopping me from getting an $80,000 car…. I’m not stopping someone from going into a bar and waking up next to someone they don’t know.”

Tyler Brewer, an employee at Tattoo Champion in Eastern Market, calls the proposed laws “ridiculous” because if someone really wants a tattoo they will just go to the accessible surrounding states, Virginia or Maryland. “This could be a blow to small businesses in DC,” says Brewer.

Fatty Jessup, of Fatty’s Custom Tattoz, told ABC News, “”By eliminating the walk-in service, you’re essentially killing the business.”

Aside from the 24-hour waiting period, the DC Department of Health proposed a regulation that could violate federal law. This law would mandate that tattoo artists deny service to people with communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

“I see these laws as the same thing as refusing to serve someone based on skin color or ethnic background,” says Brewer, “we are taught a procedure to protect ourselves from cross-examination.” Brewer says that due to his almost 7 years of experience, he does not worry about potentially contracting a disease while tattooing.

The proposed laws are necessary, said Najma Roberts, spokeswoman for D.C.’s Department of Health who further credits the law’s creation to alerts the DOH received from hospitals about illnesses directly caused by tattooing. Roberts also says that the DOH received information from concerned parents about underground tattoo parties their children attended where they could have potentially contracted a disease.

The Department of Justice claims that if standard precautions are followed, a denial of service to certain customers is not in accordance with the American Disabilities Act. Passed in 1990, the ADA prohibits the refusal of service to people with HIV/AIDS.

“We take proper precautions, like any respectable shop would,” says Knopp.

Currently, tattoo artists in DC are unregulated, but the artists at Tattoo Champion and Tattoo Paradise take proper precautions with every client, including keeping a clean parlor, using sterilization, and single-use needles.

Knopp says these laws are targeting the wrong people, “They should be going after the tattoo parlors that Instagram ‘Jell-O-Shot Tuesdays.’”

Knopp claims it is obvious that no tattoo artists were advised while writing the proposal of regulations.

Roberts says that the DOH encourages public comments while the regulations are still under proposal and review.

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