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