Tattoo ordinance change could bring more business downtown

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)– Panama City Officials say a current ordinance on tattoos “has become too restrictive over the last decade to facilitate the economic growth of the City.”

The Body Altering Ordinance, which was established in 2005, restricts “body-altering establishments” like tattoo parlors and body piercing shops from being located within 1,000 radial feet of a school, park or business.

That could soon change.

“I just think that the ordinance was a little bit archaic, and there really wasn’t any reason,” said Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki at the last City Commission meeting on August 13th. There, the ordinance change had its first reading, to make it legal for body-altering shops to be within the 1,000-foot radius.

Carolyn Prince, a local business owner, and tattoo artist, is the catalyst for the change. She got her first tattoo a few years back; Now, tattoos help her pay the bills.

“Every artist wants to put their visions on a canvas,” said Prince. “Right now, that canvas that’s helping to support our families is our clients.”

She owns Red Horse Barbershop, which relocated to Harrison Avenue after Hurricane Michael. Previously located on Transmitter road and then Highway 231, the tattoo ordinance has never affected her shop.

At their new location, however, Bay High School is just down the street.

“We don’t tattoo anybody that’s under eighteen, underage,” said Prince.

While the shop still offers haircuts, Prince says clients wonder if they’ll ever be able to continue doing tattoos. So, she’s been working for eight months to get the ordinance changed and change the stigma around tattoos.

“Tattoos are not like they used to be,” said Prince. “The majority of people now get tattoos that actually mean something to them.”

Terrance Calhoun is another artist working at Red Horse. He says the tattoo sessions are sometimes like therapy for his clients.

“Just about every client has their story,” he said. “Especially in a private setting like this, they spill their guts. They talk about things that they probably haven’t talked to anyone else about.”

Like their tattoos, they tell stories; often times of tragedy or suffering. Prince says tattoos help them rewrite those stories.

“Instead of a bad memory, they now have changed it and transformed it into a good memory,” she said.

In some cases, the tattoo becomes much more than ink. 

To re-apply the areola, because it was removed, that’s a regular tattoo,” she said, speaking about breast cancer patients. “They didn’t feel whole as a woman and I think that’s really sad, that a woman would feel that way. But I’m very grateful that I’m the person that was able to change it for them.”

If the ordinance is passed at its final hearing on August 27th, stories like this could continue at her shop. As for kids coming in for tattoos, she says not to worry. 

“I’ll school them up front in the barbershop about how old they need to be, maybe twenty, thirty, forty years old,” she said.”Live life a little bit!”

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