Louisiana tattoo shops struggle to survive, yet cannot re-open

Tattoo parlors face closure due to coronavirus precautions

SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - The emergency order keeping tattoo shops closed across the state of Louisiana has sent shock waves through that industry.

That’s because many businesses are just holding on and trying to weather this COVID caused crisis.

For the past two months, the owner of Inked And Judged Tattoo off Airline Drive in north Bossier City, Ryan Hutchings, has managed to survive thanks to a small cash reserve.

But the reality is if the state doesn’t allow these businesses to open in the next month or two — this store could be among those businesses that close permanently.

Hutchings showed us around his tattoo parlor, where there hasn't been a client since March.

Hutchings said if the public knew just how much time and money is spent to go through all their yearly health inspections it might surprise them.

“Blood and pathogens, CPR, first aid, cross-contamination. All these are valid fields that we have to do each and every year.”

Hutchings’ client and friend Aaron Crosby said people may not so quickly dismiss tattoo parlors as dangerous if they took a closer look.

"You walk in this place and you smell the aroma and it smells just so clean that you walk into a hospital you don't even get ."

For Hutchings he's turned to his faith to show the way forward.

“I’ve been trying to keep my faith, you know. Put God into it, basically; and try to steer other people in the same direction, you know. Everything happens for a reason.”

Hutchings explained that if tattoo shop owners like him are forced to close it will not stop people from getting tattoos.

“People will be getting a tattoo in a(n) unsafe environment. And you’re talking about hepatitis being spread.”

Texas just allowed tattoo parlors to reopen this week, after a groundswell of opposition to the emergency order which had kept them shut.

Hutchings’ friend and fellow tattoo shop owner, Zac “Lefty” Colbert and his wife Chonna, in Waco, Texas, defied the governor’s order and opened early.

They did so after holding a family meeting and asking one question, which "Lefty" recalled to us.

"Are we going to sit here and lose everything, or are we willing to risk everything to try to keep what we have and defend that?"

Despite 14 citations among the two of them for reopening early, they’re proud to have taken a stand.

Hutchings also told us it's unclear at the moment what he might do next.

He hasn’t thought about going to court at this time and said there’s no statewide organization where tattoo artists can unite at the moment.

Instead, Hutchings said: “This is in God’s hands now.”

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