JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Italiana Anderson
Tattoo shop owners face major challenges navigating the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
After months of being closed, shops are now allowed to open with new guidelines such as daily deep cleaning, face shields for artists and contact-less payments.
On April 1, Gov. Tate Reeves issued a stay-at-home order forcing non-essential businesses to close. Tattoo shops were included and were forced to close until further notice.
According to IBISWorld, the tattoo industry has grown by 6.1% since 2014 and it’s now estimated to be a $2-billion-dollar a year industry.
For tattoo shops, the global pandemic may put a halt on much of that revenue and maintaining social distancing will be difficult.
HOW ARE TATTOO ARTIST GOING TO TATTOO SAFELY AMID CORONAVIRUS?
Rusty Tyron, owner of Eternal Body Art in Jackson, says he is following the guidelines outlined by Gov. Reeves’ latest order but is still exposing himself.
Since tattoos and piercings are considered invasive, coronavirus could be contracted.
Tyron says now that work has resumed, artists are taking a huge risk being close to the clients they tattoo.
“It’s cross contamination we have to worry about,” said Tyron, who’s owned his shop for over 30 years. “It’s going to be difficult and up to the person. We still set the proper guidelines but we’re still exposing ourselves.”
Tyron said some of his shop’s procedures haven’t changed such as the deep cleaning, however, the stricter guidelines regarding no clients in waiting areas, are now driving some of his customers away.
“I’ve had customers come in and leave because I told them they weren’t allowed to wait in the waiting room,” Tyron.
“Since we can only have one client in the room at a time is making people impatient but it is what it is, we have to follow the guidelines to stay open.”
David Bentley, owner of Bentley Tattoo Co. in Byram, says in all his years of tattooing, he’s never had to wear a mask.
Bentley Tattoo Co. has only been open since last July.
Bentley recently moved to Mississippi from Honolulu to open his second tattoo shop. He said he has never experienced anything like the current situation.
Tattoo shops are required to have clean work spaces, but since COVID-19 the deep cleaning is getting heavier.
“I’ve tattooed since 1980, around the time of the AIDS scare, so for us we made sure even before the pandemic that our clients sign forms about their health conditions and that we were cleaning everything from top to bottom,” Bentley said.
Like Tyron, Bentley is also keeping a safe distance between his clients and fellow tattoo artists. Only two clients are allowed to receive tattoos at a time, in separate rooms.
Now, consultations have to be done through email or over the phone.
“When we found out we were able to reopen on last Friday, we spent all day deep cleaning throughout the weekend, just preparing for opening day,” Bentley said.
Bentley says all of his previous clients are still setting up appointments.
Although business is back to normal, Bentley said the financial impact has been unnerving.
‘IT’S BEEN TERRIBLE FOR US, FINANCIALLY’
Bentley said during the closure, the bills were still rolling in and he was not qualified to receive any government support.
“Its been terrible for us, we’re all independent contractors and I’m a self employed entrepreneur so that means my Comcast service still had to be paid for while we were closed,” Bentley said.
Instead of walk-ins, clients are calling in appointments daily at the Byram tattoo shop.
“The pandemic has caused a lot of stress on us but we’re staying patient and keeping the faith,” Bentley said.
“It’s inconvenient but as they said in the old days,‘Its no hill for a stepper’.”