St. Clair Shores to review ‘outdated’ ordinance

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 20, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — After declaring it was “old fashioned” and “unenforceable,” members of City Council directed City Attorney Robert Ihrie to look into amending or removing an ordinance which put prohibitions on where tattoo parlors could be located in the city.

The issue came to the attention of City Council in November because two business owners had been denied certificates of occupancy for their spas, which offered permanent makeup services, because they fell under the tattoo ordinance.

According to the 1993 city ordinance, tattoo is prohibited if an establishment is within a 1,000-foot radius of an establishment where beer or liquor is sold for consumption. Body Sculpting Spa, 22811 Greater Mack Ave., owned by Shanel Hill, and Precise Micro Beauty, 23000 Greater Mack Ave., owned by Shanneal Tate, both came afoul of the ordinance because of the bars and restaurants serving alcohol located in the vicinity of downtown St. Clair Shores.

Ihrie told City Council members that St. Clair Shores wasn’t the only community to adopt such an ordinance in the 1990s, but since then, the state of Michigan’s Public Health Code has developed more stringent regulations for tattoo parlors and what can occur within them.

The tattoo law, however, also encompasses businesses that provide permanent makeup and microblading, which are “not what one would normally think of when one thinks of a tattoo,” he said.

Since the 1990s, across the country, there have been a number of challenges to zoning ordinances like the city’s that include a distance requirement.

“Those have, essentially, been struck down by the 9th Circuit and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Tattoos and the locations and the process of creating a tattoo has First Amendment protection,” he said.

Because of that, Ihrie said that, if challenged, he believed St. Clair Shores’ zoning ordinance would be struck down as well. Since health concerns are adequately covered by state law and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he recommended City Council approve the occupancy of both businesses and revisit the issue of St. Clair Shores’ ordinance so it could be adapted to be “more in line with constitutional obligations.”

Ihrie said there are still portions of the ordinance which are lawful, such as requiring a license for a business to perform those services, but those are also called for in other sections of the city code, so it may be that the entire ordinance could be retracted.

“I think this ordinance is just really stupid,” said Councilwoman Candice Rusie, explaining that she thought it needed work when she first learned of it a few years ago. “I think it’s old-fashioned, it is unenforceable. It uses the term, ‘skid row.’”

Tate said her business is “more of a medical spa.”

“I’ve got 20 years in healthcare experience,” she said, outlining that she would be providing micropigmentation, eyebrows and lip blushing services, which she said were “a little more detailed, versus a traditional tattoo.”

City Council approved both businesses’ requests to locate their establishments within 1,000 feet of bars or restaurants and directed Ihrie to proceed with a proposed amendment or retraction of the ordinance.