Change could end 26-year ban on the business type

PASO ROBLES — Ink enthusiasts rejoice! The Paso Robles City Council took the first steps at its Jan. 7 meeting toward allowing tattoo parlors to operate in the city.  

The City Council voted to put a ban on tattoo parlors and the act of tattooing within the city in May of 1994 citing the lack of health regulations in the industry and concerns about the city’s image.

In recent years, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that tattooing is a form of artistic expression protected as freedom of speech under the constitution, leading the City attorney to recommend lifting the ban. The City has also received multiple requests to remove the ban from local tattoo artists, including Tyler Bly, who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. 

“I’m one of the people who requested this,” he said. “I’m a Cal Poly graduate and I’m also a tattoo artist. It’s something that I’d really like to be able to do here in the city. I certainly think it’s a very responsible thing — you can do it responsibly, it’s not irresponsible just inherently. You probably should keep it away from schools, that makes sense, but I would urge you not to take no action on it.”

Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Association representative Gina Grieb told the Council that she thinks “revisiting the ordinance is definitely in the favor of the community.” 

“As far as Main Street, I’d just like to encourage everyone to move forward with public workshops — find out what the community’s perspective is on this as well as including Main Street and the board of directors and the as well in this decision and our suggestions on behalf of the downtown merchants.” 

Councilmember Fred Strong made the most persuasive argument in favor of considering rolling back the ban, saying that he comes from a generation that has been “reluctant when it comes to tattooing,” and calling for those attitudes to change. 

“It’s a generational thing,” he said. “And along that line of generational things, I think many of the arguments that I would be tempted to make from my generational point of view are the same arguments Plato and Aristotle made about the children that followed them. Society changes, generations change. And as long as we’ve got the proper controls in, and as long as it’s done in an appropriate way, I think it’s worth having the staff recommend something, having the public comment and going through a process to see if this is the right move and if we do it, how we do it.” 

City Manager Tom Frutchey said that while City staff recommends repealing the ban, it could be a long while until they have enough time to start the process as they are currently busy working on plans for upcoming housing developments. 

“It’s not going to happen until July, August, September at the earliest,” Frutchey said. “Staff is totally consumed with the specific plans for Oslen-Chandler, for Beachwood and for Gateway, all of which have to be completed by July 1 along with any other projects that are already in the pipeline. So we’d love to be able to say that we can get on this right away but that’s just not going to happen.” 

The Council voted 4-1 to send the ordinance to the Planning Commission to consider changing the language of the law to allow tattoo parlors in the city. Councilmember John Hamon was the lone dissenting vote.