Berlin Council Extends Tattoo Shop Moratorium By 2 Years; Committee To Reconvene

Berlin Council Extends Tattoo Shop Moratorium By 2 Years; Committee To Reconvene
File photo by Chris Parypa

BERLIN – Town officials agreed to extend a moratorium on the establishment of tattoo shops in Berlin for another two years.

On Monday, the Berlin Town Council voted 4-0 to extend the existing moratorium on tattoo shops until Nov. 18, 2022. Members of the town’s tattoo ordinance committee are hopeful that the time will give them a chance to get the health department involved in tattoo shop inspections.

“We would like to continue to work with the town, continue to have the committee work through the regulations we originally proposed, and hopefully re-approach the health department with renewed vigor,” said Matthew Amey, a member of the committee.

David Gaskill, the town’s attorney, said officials initially passed a moratorium in 2017 when they realized the town had no regulations regarding tattoo establishments.  A committee was formed to research options and discuss the issue with the local health department.

“It was determined that the county health department either would not or could not help us ensure that if a person opened a tattoo parlor within town limits that the proper safety protocols would be in place…,” Gaskill said. “To my knowledge nothing has changed as far as the county health department is concerned.”

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He said the town could extend the moratorium to see if anything changed or could outlaw tattoo establishments.

Amey agreed that the barrier the committee had run into was inspections for tattoo shops. That eventually led the committee to pause its efforts.

“We decided to shelve our efforts at the time because we felt as though it wasn’t necessary for us to push an agenda we didn’t see moving forward,” Amey said.

He added that he and other tattoo artists still believed it was a viable industry but that the moratorium should be extended unless regulations were in place.

“We believe that regulations are necessary,” he said. “Whether or not the health department inspects and verifies that these locations are up to their standards is, in my opinion, an issue with the health department because they should be concerned with the health and safety of everyone within the county regardless of their chosen profession.”

Amey said in Worcester County, towns had to develop their own tattoo regulations. While some towns have adopted regulations that mimic Worcester County’s own, Amey said those were too restrictive because they required a physician on site.

“By overregulating the industry you’re not allowing a viable industry to thrive,” he said.

Amey said that while he didn’t want the town to adopt the county’s overly restrictive regulations he also didn’t want the town to have no regulations. What he’d like is for the town to adopt reasonable regulations and have the county’s health department provide inspections. He said the department already provided inspections for body piercing shops on the Boardwalk.

Gaskill told the council that was what the committee had approached county officials with more than a year ago.

“They would have to amend their ordinance to allow or authorize the county health department to perform inspections of tattoo parlors in the Town of Berlin,” he said. “They were not interested.”

Amey said he hoped the council would approve the moratorium extension and reconvene the committee to try to approach county officials again. Gaskill agreed that the moratorium was necessary unless the town outlawed tattoo shops outright.

“If we don’t extend this we have to refile that ordinance to prohibit it because you will have shops opening up and people getting hurt,” he said.

The council voted 4-0 to extend the moratorium and agreed to reconvene the tattoo ordinance committee.

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.