Chesterton Tribune



BZA sets public hearing on tattoo parlor on South Calumet

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The Chesterton Zoning Ordinance’s use table permits any number of businesses which, if not outright obsolete, nevertheless haven’t been seen in town for years: newsdealer, department store, shoe sales, video store, theater (both indoor and outdoor), and billiard room.

On the other hand, it does not permit a use whose industry now generates annual revenues of something like $1.5 billion: tattoo parlor.

Which is why MNB Development Corporation--owner of the strip mall at 1505 South Calumet Road where Tiger Lily and Fire Flies is located--is seeking a use variance on behalf of Chesterton resident and tattoo artist Nick Bender.

Bender, specializing in American Traditional, has been tattooing for 15 years, mostly at Bluebird Tattoo in Portage but more recently as a contractor at Speak Easy Tattoo on North Ave. in Chicago. Now Bender wants to open a shop of his own, on the far west end of the MNB property, zoned B-3.

As Bender’s attorney, Greg Babcock noted of the Zoning Ordinance’s use table, “Our uses are old and life has changed.” Not only does tattooing generate $1.5 billion in revenues every year, an ancillary industry--tattoo removal--generates close to $1 billion. Not to mention body piercing: add another $700 million.

There are now around 21,000 tattoo parlors in the U.S., Babcock said, and 38 percent of all Millennials--aged 18-39--sport at least one tattoo. So the old idea of a dank waterfront hole-in-the-wall frequented by sailors on leave, a little worse for wear, just isn’t accurate anymore, if it ever was. Tattoos have become a distinct art form, and tattooists are recognized artists.

Babcock added that the Indiana Department of Health does regulate tattoo parlors and that local health departments are empowered to inspect them to ensure that biohazardous materials are disposed of properly.

Jim Kowalski, the longest serving member of the BZA, acknowledged that the use table needs updating. “We have never revised the uses in my years,” he said. “Times change, people change. And tattoos are a norm today. There probably wasn’t a need to change the ordinance back then, because it wasn’t really relevant back then.”

Members accordingly voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the petition at its next meeting, Thursday, July 25.



Posted 6/28/2019




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