Tattoo U.

Published 10:51 pm Friday, March 20, 2009

It could have been a highly controversial matter that split the community and the City Council, one that gave the younger generations reason to conclude that their elders “just don’t understand” them and left old-timers wondering just what has happened to the world they knew.

Instead, Wednesday’s City Council discussion of a proposed tattoo parlor was brief, polite, professional and — in the final analysis — correct in its conclusion that city officials had no grounds on which to deny the owner a conditional use permit for his facility, slated to open in the Suburban Plaza Shopping Center near the Food Lion.

Citing a recent court decision, Rob Barclay told his fellow City Council members that localities cannot prevent tattoo parlors from opening within their boundaries, because doing so violates their freedom of expression. In fact, the city’s code allows such facilities in certain areas, as long as they follow stringent policies regarding record-keeping, cleanliness, sterilization procedures, restrooms and other aspects of the business.

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A tattoo still may not be the first thing a father hopes to see his daughter bring home from college, but the social stigma that once was attached to body art has long since faded. With men and women from all social classes and all walks of life now sporting tattoos, the days are surely gone when they were considered to be evidence of waywardness.

Suffolk City Council made a smart choice when it decided not to fight this particular battle.