Berlin Extends Tattoo Moratorium

BERLIN – Town officials agreed to extend a moratorium on the establishment of tattoo shops in Berlin last week.

At the recommendation of the Berlin Tattoo Ordinance Committee, the town council voted unanimously to extend a moratorium on tattoo shops in Berlin until Nov. 18, 2020.

“In the interim we hope to be able to finish the work we started and propose something worthwhile,” said Matthew Amey, chairman of the committee.

For the past year, Amey and his fellow committee members have been working to develop regulations for tattoo shops in town after an ordinance initially proposed would have required the presence of an osteopath or physician. What started as a 120-day moratorium was followed by at 180-day moratorium. As that was set to expire, the committee approached the council to seek an additional extension last week. Though the committee met with the Worcester County Health Department earlier this year, a request for modifications to Worcester County’s code that would have enabled the health department to regulate the health and safety aspects of tattoo shops in Berlin wasn’t granted.

Amey said in spite of that setback the committee didn’t want to give up. He said the committee wanted to continue to meet bi-monthly and wanted to see the moratorium extended.

Patricia Dufendach, another member of the committee, said the problem extended beyond Berlin and that perhaps the place to seek change was at the state level.

“This problem is bigger than Berlin,” she said. “It’s bigger than Worcester County. It’s really the state of Maryland—the state of Maryland’s lack of any kind of structure. They don’t have any requirements or certification which prevents an industry which a lot of people participate in. It prevents it from flourishing in our state and being safe for the public.”

Dufendach said the state needed standards for tattoo shops.

“They have standards for your hairdresser, your barber, your car mechanic,” she said. “Everyone has to know safety and public health standards.”

Amey agreed that it was a public health issue.

“My reason for volunteering in the beginning was to share my expertise on how my industry works with regulations in a safe and efficient manner,” he said.

Councilman Dean Burrell, who is also a member of the committee, said those involved had agreed that reasonable regulations were needed.

“We all see the need for tattooing in the state and especially here in Berlin to be regulated but it should not be regulated to such extent it prohibits someone going into that business,” he said. “I think we agreed that the regulations should be realistic and thorough but not prohibitive.”

Mayor Gee Williams expressed appreciation for the committee’s efforts and willingness to continue researching a solution. He said he was not surprised the state’s lack of structure was part of the problem.

“I find it’s often ironic that the state of Maryland considers itself progressive,” he said. “Who are they kidding? This is just one of many things we run into…In general, the state’s fallen behind. Whatever stories they’re telling themselves in Annapolis, I hope people are watching. Over and over again we’re finding ourselves up against antiquated, archaic regulations and laws that simply don’t make sense in the 21st century. I think this is one of them.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.