Of all the art in Los Angeles County, no medium may be more prevalent and practiced than the tattoo. It’s a robust industry in Southern California, one that is about to be governed by stricter regulations in the name of public safety.
The Safe Body Art Act passed the state Assembly in October, and the new regulations it contains will be implemented on July 1. The law will require those who practice tattooing and body art to register annually with the Los Angeles County Department of Health’s Division of Environmental Health and pay fees accordingly.
The state law will override city and county ordinances, except in the cities of Pasadena, Vernon and Long Beach, which all have their own health departments. Though Los Angeles County has had such regulations in place since 1999, it will adopt the state law, assistant director of environmental health Terri Williams said.
“We’re looking forward to it, and we’re well-prepared,” she said.
Williams said the county will ensure that operators have adequate facilities and have filed the proper paperwork through inspections. She said the division has three inspectors on staff to cover more than 400 facilities, but if necessary, the division will hire an additional five inspectors.
“To be honest with you, we’re guessing there could be 1,000 more facilities out there,” Williams said. “We will appropriately add more staff.”
With L.A. County being “a pioneer in this area” since 1999, officials do have some issues with the state law that they are trying to change. For example, the state law requires a two-hour training course for tattoo artists, while L.A. County’s current ordinance requires eight hours of training.
“We think that’s a little low,” Williams said.
The county also requires a larger space, 60 feet, for artists to ply their craft. The state law does not specify how much space is needed, stating simply that the technicians must have “adequate” space, Williams said.
“We feel like that’s a real issue that should be addressed,” she added.
However, in some areas, the state law is a bit more stringent. While the county allowed permits to be valid for up to three years, the state law requires registration annually.
Khani Zulu, the co-owner of Zulu Tattoo on Crescent Heights Boulevard, received a notice from the health department about the new regulations. She said the new law is welcome, though it will raise the cost of doing business.
“I think regulation is good in an industry that has not been regulated in the past,” Zulu said. “It’s good because it’s going to keep us legitimate business doing business the right way. …I think it’s necessary to maintain safety for the public … and the artist.”
She said Zulu Tattoo, though it has never been inspected, practices the utmost safety measures. However, Zulu believes some shops will have a tough time with the new law, if the inspectors can keep up.
“It’s just too much,” she said of the inspectors’ coverage area. “It’s too big of a job for them. In fact, they’re still trying to figure our how to make that happen.”
Bok, who has worked at Kayden Creations in Hollywood for 12 years, said he has heard that more stringent tattoo and piercing regulations have been coming for years. The rumors would surface every so often and vanish quickly.
“I would think most shops would have their act together,” Bok added.
He said he has never been inspected at Kayden Creations, though he was inspected for a recent show in Las Vegas. Bok said the only inspections that the business has had were for its fire extinguishers.
According to information supplied by the health department, the body art facility permit fees are $368 for one to three practitioners — or tattoo artists — and $443 for more than three. The new registration fee is $47 per tattoo artist.
The cost of tattoos can vary widely. Some shops charge by the piece, with minimums of $100 or so. Others charge by the hour, at a cost of approximately $60 per hour. Those numbers can fluctuate depending on the shop.
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