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Tattooing passes in DeKalb, application details to be finalized before issuing licenses

DeKALB – Tattooing has been legalized within the city.

But the ink won’t be flowing quite yet.

The DeKalb City Council unanimously supported two motions on Monday night that effectively lifted a ban on tattooing, created a new chapter of the city ordinance detailing rules and regulations for body art establishments and permitted tattooing in certain zoning districts.

“Welcome, tattoo parlors,” Mayor Kris Povlsen said shortly after the vote.

“Now you need to get licensed by the state and approved by the county.”

Along with holding a state license and getting health inspections of the facility, interested tattoo artists will need to apply for a city license.

Application forms won’t be available for a few weeks, City Clerk Steve Kapitan said after the meeting, because details need to be finalized.

Submitted applications also require a public hearing, which are typically held at city council meetings, and it’s up to the city council to issue each license.

Under the ordinance, there must be at least 500 feet, or about three blocks, separating tattoo businesses, and the number of downtown shops is limited to two.

A handful of body artists wishing to start tattooing in DeKalb were at the city council meeting to weigh in on the regulations.

An attorney representing Euro Tattoo, with a shop in Rockford, didn’t agree with the 500-foot buffer.

“Our reasons for that, to us, it seems better to have ... multiple tattoo establishments lumped closer together, so the town doesn’t look like there are tattoo parlors sprinkled throughout the town,” said the attorney, Matt Ryan.

Another discussion was on whether tattooing should be allowed in heavy industrial districts.

The city’s plan commission recommended the use in general commercial, light industrial and the central business districts, but not heavy industrial.

Aldermen decided to include heavy industrial districts in a 6-1 vote, with 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker opposing.

“What we may be encouraging without realizing it [if heavy industrial zones are approved for tattooing] is what one of the applicants suggested we might not want,” Baker said. That is, “to have tattoo businesses spread across the community and look like the tattoo capital of the Midwest.”

The public interest in starting a tattoo business in DeKalb has grown since the city council first began discussions to lift the ban four months ago.

Because there could likely be more than one foot in the door when it opens, Kapitan said that the council may review all initial applications under one public hearing when that process begins.

He added that the public would be notified when applications are made available through media outlets.

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