Planning Commission approves Main St. tattoo parlor

May 13, 2005
Santa Paula News

Although Planning Commissioners made it clear at Tuesday’s hearing that they did not object to a tattoo and piercing parlor in general, they drew the line on the business being located on Main Street.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesAlthough Planning Commissioners made it clear at Tuesday’s hearing that they did not object to a tattoo and piercing parlor in general, they drew the line on the business being located on Main Street. But the law - or rather the lack of a specific ordinance banning such operations in the downtown - negated their concerns. Commissioners voted 5-0 to allow the parlor to open at 821 E. Main St. after a long hearing that featured remarks by both friends and foes of the enterprise.The staff report noted that the parlor would be an “upscale studio with a sophisticated 1950s theme,” also featuring a retail sales component.Operator Glen West said he had met with downtown merchants, Santa Paula Police Chief Bob Gonzales and others about his business, which would be strictly operated and masked from the view of passersby.“I don’t do gang and racial tattoos...I’m too busy for that and I usually don’t work on those kinds of people anyway,” West - whose work has been featured in a documentary - said. “My business is not for everybody, but it’s for some people.... I will be an asset to the community. It ends up working out well for everybody.”“How do you think your business will enhance the downtown?” asked Commissioner Jesse Ornelas.“There will be more hip and a diversity of people coming into town and I believe they will spend money in other shops,” including friends and family of clients who must wait during the tattoo application. West said he also offers informational flyers on tattoo removal.Commissioner John Turturro wondered what West would do if “somebody looped came in....”“I’d tell them I’m really busy” and to come back the next day, said West.Operating hours would be 2 p.m. to 8 or 10 p.m. Retail items would include jewelry, T-shirts and eventually paintings and other artwork.Commissioners were concerned that the tattoo and piercing areas be concealed from view, and West assured them that even inside the shop such work would be camouflaged.
Maria Arana, owner of the 600-square-foot space sought by West, said that her adjoining business stays open late. She would feel “very safe” having the parlor open next door, and “I think it’s a very good thing for Main Street.”Although West is a “great applicant and a nice person,” John Chamberlain of the Chamber of Commerce government relations committee said that Santa Paula had “been suffering an image problem for a long, long time...we have no problem with this business,” if it is located away from Main Street.Building owner John Kulwiec has a “major retailer” looking at one of his Main Street sites, and he said he is concerned about the impact. “This is not a healthy thing for them (children) to see or the people who are involved in me slanted,” said Kulwiec who “strongly” recommended that the business find another location away from the downtown.A series of speakers supported West.“Glen is not going to bring an element into the community that is not conducive to the community,” noted Sandy Parker of Simi Valley.“Glen does bring a measure of integrity to the industry that most people do not connect to,” said Shannon Riley of Ventura.Terry Parker noted that there are two parlors on Santa Barbara’s upscale State Street that are thriving, but Chamberlain - who had owned a bakery in that area - said that the two cities cannot be compared when it comes to economic development.“We need the business in Santa Paula; if we keep closing doors” to business, enterprise in general will stay away, said Arana.Chief Gonzales said that his grown children like tattoos, although he finds them objectionable. Hours of parlor operation could be a positive, providing more eyes on the street during evening hours, and West “assured me he would not allow it to become a hangout.” Although there have been some problems at tattoo parlors in the county, several cities have reported little or no incidents, Chief Gonzales added.Although the commissioners said they wished that West would locate his business elsewhere in the city, Commissioner Jennifer Matos, a university professor, said she has seen “literally thousands of students with various levels of skill tattoos, some quite beautiful. It might will at least add color to the downtown.”

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