Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Tattoos in Papillion...
Tattoos can really change your image. And that has some Papillion residents upset.
Dr. Jack's opened Dec. 1 on South Washington Street, Papillion's main drag.Along the main street of this suburban city, where T-ball teams line up for treats at the Dairy Queen and junior high students walk to school, the soft glow of the community's Nativity display recently got some competition for attention.
A lemon yellow sign radiates like a beacon outside the newest business in town: Dr. Jack's Ink Emporium tattoo parlor.
Opened Dec. 1, the parlor has already spurred complaint letters and a petition to shut it down. Petition supporters say the tattoo parlor mars the city's image.
The manager of the parlor said he is operating legally and is disheartened by misconceptions about tattooing.
Papillion Mayor James Blinn said the parlor doesn't fit the city's image, but the city can't shut the business down. He has asked a committee to look at tightening the regulation of such businesses.
Nearly 90 people have signed the petition opposing the parlor, which operates in a storefront at 213 S. Washington St.
The petition asserts that the parlor will have "a detrimental impact" on the safety and well-being of children and "detracts from Papillion's family atmosphere."
Retired teacher Barbara Berg, whose granddaughter attends Papillion Junior High, wrote a letter to City Hall objecting to it.
"We've had a big push in downtown to add flowers, and we've spent a lot of money redoing the curbs and putting in benches for people to sit," Berg said. "Then here's the tattoo parlor."
Since 2006, the city has spent nearly $600,000 adding planters, benches, decorative lampposts and brick pavers to improve its downtown image and create a pedestrian-friendly place. But like many cities, Papillion has struggled to keep its downtown vibrant as shoppers flock to shopping centers at the edge of town.
Blinn said Dr. Jack's did not require approval from the mayor and council to open in an existing building already zoned for commercial activity.
"Did we approve or recruit that business to go in?" Blinn said. "The answer is 'no.'"
He has asked the City Council's finance and administration committee to research whether ordinances can be changed to "more strongly regulate this type of activity at or near where children will be present."
The parlor in question, however, would be exempt from any new rules, he said.
"That business is now existing, so if you change the zoning law, it does not make them close down. They're grandfathered."
Matt Stensrud, 27, who manages the parlor, said he is disheartened by what he feels are misconceptions about body art. Stensrud said the art form appeals to folks of all ages and is becoming more mainstream.
Stensrud, a single dad who lives in Bellevue, said he grew up in Papillion, where he attended St. Columbkille School and became an Eagle Scout.
"We're not monsters; we're regular people," he said.
Derek Ferrell, who leased his building to Dr. Jack's, said critics don't understand the difficulty of finding tenants in the current retail climate.
"They're not in my shoes. I've got a $2,000-a-month bay open there. If nobody else is renting it, what am I going to do? Go out of business?"
Ferrell said the previous two lessees in the building, a sandwich shop and a women's gym, couldn't make it downtown.
"There were two viable, family-friendly businesses in there" that were not supported, he said.
Dr. Jack's has four other locations: one in Fremont, one in Bellevue and two in Omaha, near 137th and M Streets and near Interstate 680 and West Maple Road.
The Papillion parlor is one of four body art salons the state indicates are licensed in Sarpy County. Two are in Bellevue, including the Dr. Jack's at 410 Galvin Road North. One is in La Vista.
Omaha has 26 licensed body-art outlets.
Ana Perry of Papillion, who signed the petition, wonders about the location a block and a half from Papillion Junior High — and its hours she described as late —open until midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
"It's right next to the junior high," Perry said. "I'm just concerned about the kids, the exposure."
She said the Dr. Jack's Web site carries a warning that it contains "adult content and images" and that visitors should be 18 or older.
Perry also expressed concern that the chain's Bellevue location conducted "suspensions," where patrons are hung from hooks, sometimes before an audience.
Stensrud said suspensions are done only at the Bellevue parlor.
Monte Vogel, general manager of Dr. Jack's and a member of the Nebraska Board of Cosmetology Examiners, said people are quick to judge.
"A lot of times, fears are based on ignorance," Vogel said. "If you don't know about something, then you're just going to be scared about it until you know more about it or know the better."
Hollywood perpetuates the stigma, he said.
"You can pick out the bad guys, they're the guys with the tattoos and the piercings," he said.
As practitioners of a licensed profession, body artists are comparable to nail technicians and cosmetologists, he said.
James Lee of Papillion, who helped to circulate the petition, said he hopes the council will look at what other cities have done to regulate tattoo parlors, pawn shops and other businesses that he described as questionable.
Some cities, Lee said, have prohibited such businesses within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park or homes and have restricted operating hours.
"If they act quickly with some ordinances," Lee said, "then they can prevent it in the future."
Papillion City Councilman Gene Jaworski, who is on the committee, said he favors tightening the regulations.
"I wish it would have gone someplace else," Jaworski said. "I'm not against the business. I just don't think Main Street's the place to put it."
The big yellow sign stands out "like a sore thumb," he said.
at 2:35 PM