Tattoo artists in Washington, D.C., worry the city's health department might soon put them out of business.
City regulators have been trying to craft rules for body artists since last year, with limited success. When regulators proposed a 24-hour waiting period for people who want to get tattooed, the outcry from the D.C. body art community drew national attention and an enormous influx of protest.
Opponents of that rule argued that it would shut down many (if not most) of the city’s tattoo parlors by effectively banning walk-ins, and the waiting-period idea got spiked.
Since that brush with business-death, many of the city’s tattoo artists and body piercers have organized to push back more effectively against potentially onerous regulations and to advocate for a sensible regulatory scheme.
It was then that a man who prefers to go by the name Fatty, owner of Fatty's Tattoos and Piercings in Dupont Circle, helped start the D.C. Coalition of Professional Body Artists, the city's tattoo and body piercing industry association.
The group's most recent effort: keeping the district from requiring they use tattoo needles that don't exist. The new round of regulations, proposed last month, would mandate that all body artists in D.C. use hollow needles.
While hollow needles are considered the best practice for body piercing, Fatty said there’s no such thing as a hollow tattoo needle. He compares it to requiring all taxis have square wheels.
The regulations would also require body artists to post warnings about potential health risks, including HIV/AIDS. Fatty says some of these risks are unsupported by medical research.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “They’re trying to scare our customers away.”
The city's health department is taking comments on the proposed regulations until Aug. 25. If history repeats itself, tattooing won't become de-facto illegal in the nation's capital. But the people who work in the body art industry are erring on the side of caution.