Morehead City tattoos have long been a part of the local scene, with many residents and visitors getting inked. However, a group of business owners and citizens recently went to the Morehead City Council meeting to oppose proposed license requirements for tattoo and body piercing businesses.
Connie Asero, executive director of the Downtown Morehead City Revitalization Association (DMCRA), spoke on behalf of more than 150 businesses and residents that her organization represents in the area. She said the influx of tattoo and piercing shops in the downtown district is alarming, especially because it could signify a downturn after 12 years of taxpayer investments.
The proposed licensing requirements would require tattoo and piercing establishments to have $1 million liability insurance, provide business records for city inspections, allow background checks on staff members and limit hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The city also wants tattoo and piercing artists to be certified in bloodborne pathogens, have a valid health permit and limit the amount of time they spend on their feet.
Ernie Hussey of Morehead City argued that the proposed regulations are unfair to tattoo and piercing businesses, saying they resemble a dictatorship. He said he doesn’t think it’s the city’s place to put them out of business.
The mayor and several council members defended the proposed requirements, saying they were intended to protect public health. Councilman David Horton, who represents the area where the majority of tattoo and piercing businesses are located, said it shouldn’t be the council’s goal to put anyone out of business. He suggested they consider having the state create rules on tattoo and piercing establishments. The city’s public health director, Richard Phelps of Hubert, emphasized that the state already has requirements for tattoo and piercing businesses, including keeping merchandise from being visible to customers, providing background checks and denying those who have been convicted of felonies the right to perform piercings or tattoos.