Tattoo Shops in LA County Are Still Shuttered, but Artists Have to Get By – LA Magazine

Posted in Tattoo Shop on Sep 09, 2020

Tattoo artist Jose Arvizu has spent the last handful of years honing his craft and building his client list at legendary Long Beach parlor Outer Limits Tattoo. When he isnt working on hometown clients, the artist better known as Spacehustle tattoos around the world, and was planning a trip across both Europe and Asia this year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down Southern Californias tattoo parlorsnot to mention international travelfor the bulk of the past six months.

Its obviously taken away my income and the momentum Ive built up over the years, Arvizu says. Now everything is on pause except for my bills.

Outside of red states that rushed to reopen their economies even as virus cases soared, the tattoo industry has struggled to find its footing since the start of the pandemic. Throughout Californiaincluding in Los Angeles Countyhair salons are now able to offer indoor service, but tattoo parlors remain among the high-touch businesses that still arent permitted to operate, despite briefly being able to reopen in June. And while unemployment insurance and other safety nets have helped workers in other shuttered industries stave off financial disaster, many tattoo artists do a cash-heavy business and arent able to provide precise proof of income. Thats meant surviving the past several months with little more than their existing savings and their ingenuity.

Some tattoo shops have quietly remained open since they were ordered to shutter in March. Others opened more recently despite the mandate that they remain closed. For artists in dire straits, the risk of getting caught and being punished has been outweighed by the necessity to feed their families or pay rent. Plus, some say, the sanitation and sterilization practices already in place in most reputable tattoo shopscoupled with rigorous mask usage by both clients and tattooershave made them more comfortable taking their chances being close to clients.

It hasnt been business as usual, of course. Some shops have closed to the public while remaining open on an appointment-only basis. For an artist like the up-and-coming Kadriya Truvillion of Purple Panther Tattoos in downtown L.A.who was also furloughed from her second job as a bartender because of the pandemicswitching to private sessions was the only reasonable answer.

Most of my consulting happens online via email or [Instagram] DM correspondence now, Truvillion says of how she operates these days. The other big change is that clients often want to bring friends and family members to their appointment for emotional support, but weve been discouraging this habit now despite being fine with it under normal circumstancesso its probably a slight bummer when I encourage them to come solo to their appointment.

The threat of punishment for noncompliance hasnt been an effective deterrent for lots of artists, largely because its been difficult to determine what the punishment is.

We were never actually told by anyone official, one artist, who asked to remain anonymous, says. I dont even know who to ask. I dont know if its the health department or each separate countys business division. Its actually really weird that we never got any official orders from anyone; were just supposed to know because of the news.

Multiple calls and emails to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, the agency that ensures artists have their blood-borne pathogen certification in order to be licensed, didnt yield specific answers, but at least one artist reported that their shop was visited by the member of a task force they believed was associated with the health department.

Maybe instead of trying to fine businesses for being open, they should put that money into funding businesses that need to be closed so they can afford their basic living expensesso they dont have to work illegally, the anonymous artist says. Sometimes its better to ask forgiveness than permission, I guess.

Artists who have put down their guns during the pandemic have launched everything from limited edition T-shirts to podcasts to make up some of their lost income. Others have taken to tattooing out of their homes (or their clients homes) and taking trips to states like Arizona and Colorado, where theyre able to tattoo in their friends shops. Even posting to Instagramundoubtedly the best marketing tool for tattooershas become a bit of a tightrope walk. While they want to communicate to clients that theyre accepting appointments, they dont want to draw unwanted attention.

For Arvizu, the answer has been leaving California to workeven if it means risking his health.

Ive had to go out of state a few times to work in states where shops were allowed to open, which is terrifying because were in the middle of a pandemic, Arvizu says. But, I have to pay rent somehow.

RELATED: L.A. County Will Now Allow Indoor Hair Salon and Barber Service

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Tattoo Shops in LA County Are Still Shuttered, but Artists Have to Get By - LA Magazine

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