Moratorium keeps Brisbane ink-free — for now

For anyone looking to memorialize the Giants’ world-championship run with a new tattoo, avoid this small town just south of San Francisco.

The City Council made Brisbane an ink-free zone earlier this month by unanimously passing a 45-day moratorium on body-art establishments, and it could be extended to as long as two years.  

It is not as if the 3,600-resident town on the eastern slope of San Bruno Mountain has become overrun with piercing shops and tattoo artists — it does not have any.

But after an interested business owner asked about the city’s requirements for tattoo parlors, city officials realized that none exist and decided they needed time to adopt regulations guiding where the businesses can operate.

“I wouldn’t want one next door to my house. Downtown might be something different,” Councilman Steven Waldo said. “I wouldn’t want a commercial establishment in a noncommercial district. And if you don’t regulate them in some manner, then you could have that.”

An outright ban on tattoo parlors is out of the question, officials said, based on a September ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The federal court overturned Hermosa Beach’s ban on tattoo parlors, ruling that the businesses are entitled to protection as free speech under the First Amendment.

But City Manager Clay Holstine said staff will research options for regulations that could address where body-art businesses can set up or what their hours of operation would be. He said the city’s main business drag on Visitacion Avenue is adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

The moratorium passed by the City Council states that an unregulated tattoo parlor would “create an immediate and serious risk of adverse health and safety impacts,” though Waldo said he could not think of any specific concerns along those lines.

Of course, tattoo-hungry Brisbane residents can always head north to San Francisco, where there are 50 to 60 body-art shops, according to that city’s Public Health Department.

Elsewhere in San Mateo County, there are 24 such businesses licensed under a body-art ordinance that supervisors passed in 2005. The county regulates issues such as records keeping and sanitation, but not where the establishments can be located.

Since the countywide regulation started, officials have not had problems with enforcement, said Dean Peterson, the Peninsula’s director of environmental health.

“We really aren’t seeing major violations out there,” Peterson said. “These folks are operating in a pretty good way.”

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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