Tattoo shops reopen in San Diego


OCEAN BEACH, Calif. – For the first time in months, tattoo shops reopened Friday in San Diego.

“I never really thought I’d get a neck tattoo,” Johnathan Howard said. “But I thought you only live once, so why not?”

Howard was one of the first to climb into the chair Friday at SouthBay Mike’s Blackwater Tattoo. He had been waiting to get fresh ink — a tattoo with angel wings and a lotus — since April.

“It’s the flower of life,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which led state and local leaders to enforce mass shutdowns of industry and many recreational activities, placed some businesses in downtown Ocean Beach in a difficult position, according to shop owner Mike Kellerman.

“It’s been heart-wrenching to see businesses close up,” Kellerman said. “Some of those shops aren’t coming back.”

But Kellerman said Friday’s reopening was a much needed relief for customers.

“A lot of people have been coming in before we even opened asking, ‘Hey, are you open yet?'” he said.

The reopenings come after county leaders issued guidance last week for personal care businesses such as massage parlors, nail salons and tattoo shops to return, though facial coverings and employee temperature screens now are required.

They might be among the last industries to return for a while after County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Thursday the county is pausing implementation of future reopening guidance from the state after the area recorded eight community COVID-19 outbreaks in the past week. Fletcher also said the county is stepping up enforcement of its public health order for rule violators.

As a result, Kellerman said he and others wondered if tattoo shops and spas still would be allowed to reopen Friday. But he said he wasn’t all that concerned about it.

“Not one bit, I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I’ll be straight forward, because I was going to open regardless. I felt like three months was enough. We’ll take care of it and do what’s safe.”

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