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Berlin tattoo group not yet inked

(Oct. 5, 2017) Town Administrator Laura Allen will lead a committee that will develop standards for tattoo shops and tattoo-related industries in the Town of Berlin.

The Berlin Town Council last week voted unanimously to put a 120-day moratorium on new tattoo businesses while the committee works on codifying its regulations.

Apparently, Planning Director Dave Engelhart was asked about town guidelines when someone recently inquired about opening a microblading business. Microblading is a form of permanent makeup, similar to tattooing.

Town officials, realizing the town code did not address either practice, added an emergency ordinance to the Town Council agenda last Monday that would have adopted standards similar to Worcester County’s that require a physician or osteopath to be present during tattoo procedures. When many people in attendance objected, a compromise was struck and a temporary ban was put in place while the town works to draft more lenient rules.

Allen, last Thursday, said she spoke with tattoo artist Matthew Amey before the council meeting.

“He was a little frustrated and felt like things were being ramrodded,” she said. “I said, ‘well, look, [the council] will decide what they’re going to do. Maybe they’ll adopt it, maybe they’ll change it, maybe they’ll do nothing.’ So, come and tell us what you think and we’ll take it from there.”

Amey did just that, defending tattooing as an art form and economic engine. He also talked about his experience in the industry. Because of county standards, Amey can’t open in a business in Maryland and instead opened two studios in Selbyville, Delaware. He and his wife, Lisa Tossey, live in Berlin and operate the Wooden Octopus fine art gallery.

After he and others spoke out, Mayor Gee Williams proposed a compromise, which the council approved.

“To me, that’s the process,” Allen said. “If we see something that needs to be addressed, our responsibility to the council is to set it up so they can address it. We moved pretty quickly, because there weren’t any regulations in place and it made sense to me that there be something.

“I put what I thought was a good option in front of them. They decided they wanted to do something a little bit different,” she added.

Allen said she would lead a committee of “staff and community representatives” that may or may not include elected officials.

“We haven’t really determined the size and who’s going to be on it just yet, but we will pretty soon,” she said.

She added Amey would be on the committee, “if he wants to be.”

Amey emailed a statement to the Gazette, last Thursday.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to provide my expertise to the committee and look forward to working with them to create reasonable, conscientious and objective regulations,” he stated. “Hopefully, the outcome of our work will be mutually beneficial for not only public safety, but would also spur a thriving industry that I’ve seen been stifled in this area for the last few decades.”