Mesa’s newest tattoo parlor is adorned by artwork hanging on burgundy walls, a salt-water aquarium and massage-style chairs — giving off a vibe that more closely resembles a doctor’s office.
But despite his business’ appearance, 24-year-old Kelly Garnett’s attempt to open his first tattoo shop — Damage Ink — has hit a bureaucratic snag.
The hours might be posted already in his southwest Mesa store window, but a handwritten sign informs would-be customers that the shop remains closed due to “technical difficulties.”
As it turns out, the reason needles aren’t humming and ink isn’t flowing at Damage Ink is because of an ordinance that requires the tattoo parlor to be at least 1,200 feet from another tattoo shop or a school — a requirement Garnett thought he satisfied when he started spending the first of his roughly $40,000 investment to turn a vacant strip center suite into a tattoo shop.
A drive from Garnett’s storefront on Alma School Road to Dobson High School covers a distance of more than the required buffer — nearly a quarter mile. The nearest tattoo parlor on the northwest corner of Alma School and Guadalupe roads also is beyond the limit.
But the city ordinance doesn’t count the distance in driving miles, but instead “as the crow flies.” That leaves Garnett’s shop only about 1,000 feet — through an established neighborhood — to the back fence of the high school. And despite signing a five-year lease, the majority of the City Council faces the proposition of making an exception to the rule or prohibiting Damage Ink from opening.
“I’ve prayed and asked for a miracle, and I honestly believe that’s what’s going to happen,” Garnett said.
Mesa planning director John Wesley said city staff is still looking at the issue and will issue its official recommendation before the May 18 Planning and Zoning Board meeting.
That board will make a recommendation to the council, which is tentatively scheduled to hear the case June 19, more than two months after Garnett had hoped to open the shop.
Tattoo, pawn and body piercing shops, as well as day labor centers, must obtain a permit before opening, “because we want to make sure they are in the right location,” said Councilman Rex Griswold, who did not say how he would vote.
Garnett will have three open houses at his store starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The city also is considering an ordinance that would require a similar buffer zone between pay day loan stores, which have proliferated in west Mesa and led to complaints from residents. That vote also could be in June.