Vista is about to get its third tattoo establishment — after a careful vetting process by a panel of city-council members, economic development folks, and the chamber of commerce.
With downtown redevelopment underway, the city council decided to allow a third shop to open and set aside space for one in the downtown specific plan area.
On October 14, the council set up a panel to interview and study the tattoo applicants and pick one, rejecting the idea that it should be chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis or by lottery.
"The whole reason we limited it to one is so we can have some control in the downtown community," councilman John Aguilera explained. "Something that closes at 7 or 8 o'clock, because we're not looking to have a 1 a.m. tattoo parlor."
That's fine with Sam Phillips, who runs American Tattoo in Bonsall with business partner Sarah Spinks.
"We're both home owners in that neighborhood and we pay taxes in Vista and send our kids to school in Vista," Phillips said. "We're locals who were born and raised in Vista and it would be nice to work in our neighborhood."
Phillips said it's not that unusual for cities to limit the number of permits issued to tattoo parlors. Vista and Oceanside decided to issue permits on a per-capita basis; Carlsbad hasn't allowed any at all, he said.
"A lot of cities will let massage parlors in and then block tattoo parlors," he said. But the days of drunken tattoos after midnight have ended for a lot of tattoo businesses, he said. "It's art now. We dedicate our whole lives to bettering the profession and the art we make — Sarah and I travel part of the year to educate ourselves and learn new techniques and work side-by-side with other artists from all over the world," Phillips said.
Phillips and Spinks aren't the only ones interested in the new location. Chris Yvon from Power Tattoo, already legal and established in southeastern Vista, reminded the council his shop went through the city's process.
"[Tattoo artist] Jason [Motley] and I have championed tattooing in our city — we had to go through some zoning regulations to get established and we did," he said. "We'd like to get special consideration [for the downtown slot] for the two businesses that are here and doing what's required."