Body art ordinance brought into the 21st century

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 21, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — After encountering a taboo on tattoo parlors located within 1,000 feet of a business that sold beer or alcohol for consumption on the premises, City Council has approved a new Body Art Facilities Ordinance to take the place of a Tattoo Establishment Ordinance enacted in the mid-1990s.

“Our ordinance was very old. It did not factor in the fact that the state of Michigan, essentially, passed legislation several years ago that really took over, in large part, the regulation of what we all know as tattoo parlors but what the state calls body art facilities,” St. Clair Shores City Attorney Robert Ihrie said at the April 5 City Council meeting.

In addition to typical tattoo parlors, however, the city ordinance also covered permanent makeup and microblading establishments. The outdated ordinance came to the attention of City Council because facilities offering permanent makeup were seeking to open within 1,000 feet of restaurants in the downtown area of St. Clair Shores, which sold alcohol.

Microblading is a tattooing technique wherein a small handheld tool made of several tiny needles is used to add semi-permanent pigment to the skin for eyebrows. Permanent makeup can be used on the eyes, brows and lips.

Shanel Hill, of Body Sculpting Spa, 22811 Greater Mack Ave., has operated a medical spa in St. Clair Shores since 2013. When she wanted to offer permanent makeup, she called the city, the county and the state and was told she didn’t need to do anything to add that service. Hill said there must have been some sort of mix-up, however, because when Shanneal Tate, the owner of Precise Micro Beauty, 23000 Greater Mack Ave., sought her certificate of occupancy in downtown St. Clair Shores, “that’s how I was discovered,” Hill said.

“I was in shock, because I’ve been operating for years with no drunk people coming to get permanent makeup,” she added.

The updated Body Art Facilities ordinance, Ihrie said, will allow St. Clair Shores to continue to regulate the businesses while mirroring the state law. Having the ability to charge a violator under a local ordinance instead of the state law, he said, allows the city to keep more of the penalties and fines than if the violation was charged under state law.

In addition, he said the state law is enforced by the county health department, so if, for example, a police officer enters a body art facility and sees someone smoking — a violation of state law — the officer would have to contact the county health department for enforcement, versus having the ability to issue a citation on the spot for violating the city ordinance.

“I drafted it to give us more authority, as opposed to less,” he explained.

While the prior ordinance prohibited the location of a tattoo facility within 1,000 feet of any adult amusement device center, establishment where beer or liquor is sold for consumption on the premises, hotels or motels, billiard halls, pawn shops, public lodging house, second hand stores, or other tattoo parlors, the new ordinance removes restrictions on where the businesses can be located.

The new ordinance, however, does establish allowed hours of operation. Ihrie’s initial draft called for hours to be restricted to 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but Councilman Chris Vitale said he wanted to see the time frame extended.

“I understand, and respect and agree with the idea of not having all-night tattoo operations (but) this also includes microblading, which ... I see this as more of a beauty shop issue, and I’m sure beauty shops start work before 11 a.m.,” he said.

He suggested the allowable hours of operation be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. City Council voted 5-0 to approve the new ordinance with those hours of operation, with Councilwoman Candice Rusie and Mayor Kip Walby absent, but excused, from the vote.

Hill is happy the city has updated its ordinance to help other businesses like her own.

“I’m proud that we were able to make this change because, obviously, it was outdated,” she said. “I’ve been operating as a medical spa, and I’d already got my body art licensing ... I thought I was good to go.

“I always play by the rules. I love my city. I love my business.”