Blue Horseshoe Story

From Prick Magazine:
While it may seem there are tattoo shops popping up everywhere, there are still some cities trying to shut out the industry. Chris Bowman of Blue Horseshoe Tattoo, Ltd. in Virginia Beach knows the hardships all too well. Even now, the fight continues as he tries to establish legitimacy for an industry that, by some, is considered to bring an unsavory element to an otherwise conservative community. This display of fortitude shows how serious Chris is about helping set up regulations that will benefit all professional artists in the Hampton Roads area. Lets face it, the more knowledge the government has, the better the chances are of getting tattooing legalized in other places.

Chris was excited the day the city of Chesapeake granted him the permits necessary to open a dermagraphics studio in August 2000. The practice of tattooing had been banned in the Hampton Roads area for nearly 50 years when he opened Rt. 17 Tattoos, Art and Body Piercing. Soon after, though, Chris was arrested for tattooing. I guess the city wasn't quite sure what dermagraphics was when the permit was issued. In the interim, Rt. 17 had to be closed due to a lack of new revenue. He now faced a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and up to $2500 in fines.
When released, Chris sought out lawyer Mike Joynes to find out how this happened and what could be done. Acting on an existing ban, the city of Chesapeake arrested Bowman for tattooing even though the Commissioner of Revenue issued him a legal business license. Chris and Mike fought the ordinance under Virginia's Dillon Rule, which states that municipalities cannot exceed powers given to them by the General Assembly. In other words, cities have the right to regulate tattooing, but not ban it.

Mike and Chris tried to settle peacefully and reach a compromise, but the city of Chesapeake threatened to table the issue indefinitely. With no other recourse to take, they filed suit on behalf of the company against the city. The ordinance was eventually overturned.

Soon after, Chris and Mike partnered up and opened in a new location, now under the name Blue Horseshoe Tattoo, Ltd. When the original shop opened on Military Hwy., the city of Chesapeake, realizing there were no regulations in place, instituted them overnight by the City Council. The regulations, however, had little to do with tattooing and more to do with a restaurant, even though Chris had called numerous times volunteering to assist in their development. The health department then came into the studio without previous notification that any regulations had been put into place and forced the shop to close until it could obtain a health department permit. Although he had already met the required changes for the studio, he went ahead and installed his "grease" sink and then helped rewrite the regulations so the city would have some knowledge as to what actually goes on in a tattoo studio.

The health department was prevented by the city from issuing him a permit due to the fact that they wanted an occupancy permit. In order to get an occupancy permit, they wanted a facility inspection. In order to get that inspection, they wanted city zoning approval. Zoning finally implemented their regulations over thirty days after Blue Horseshoe Tattoo, Ltd. had opened. The regulations stated that the building was not zoned for tattooing. This prevented Blue Horseshoe from opening its doors again in that location. Again, they filed suit. The case is currently pending.

Other cities soon followed Chesapeake's lead, placing similar zoning codes, making it virtually impossible to open a tattoo studio. There have been lawsuits filed on behalf of shops other than Blue Horseshoe to be allowed to tattoo in specific areas, but have been unsuccessful because laws since have been passed that state a city is within it's rights to regulate where a shop can and cannot operate. This includes school zones, residential areas, or within so many feet of a church and the oceanfront. Chris worked diligently with Virginia Beach Health Department to create solid regulations, and this willingness to help afforded Chris the ability to open a shop in Virginia Beach.

Despite all these issues, Chris opened a new studio under the same name - Blue Horseshoe Tattoo, Ltd. - on London Bridge in compliance with all stipulations on March 13, 2002. He has remained open since. The venture has been successful enough to open a second shop, but, once again, he ended up in court for the rights of tattoo artists in Hampton, VA. The 9th of January, 2004 marks the one-year anniversary and success of his win in Hampton.

Chris and Mike have not stopped there.They are now in the middle of a drawn out court battle with the city of Norfolk,Va. for the right to tattoo. The staff of artists is an eclectic bunch, with many different favored styles among them, ranging from new school to portraiture. With the large population and limited studio options, Blue Horseshoe Tattoo, Ltd. considers itself very fortunate to have access to such an array of talent in one company. Blue Horseshoe Tattoo, Ltd. is always striving to become the best tattoo studio it can by doing unheard of things in this industry such as offering health insurance, investment planning, and a full time office staff. With continual plans for expansion in the works - including a shop in Norfolk, and later the U.S. Caribbean Islands - the shop is always welcoming new talent.

For more information call Chris Bowman at Blue Horse Shoe Tattoo: 757.827.8286

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