Tattoo artists have no luck with unemployment, reopening is unknown

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Springfield tattoo shops

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Springfield tattoo artists have not received unemployment while being out of work for almost two months due to COVID-19.

“Luckily, I was able to pay this month’s rent,” Mike Brown, owner and tattoo artist at Rose City Tattoo said.

Alejandro Valdez, owner and tattoo artist at Flesh to Fantasy Springfield said he has tried to apply for unemployment, but has been denied multiple times.

“We have no way to produce money. This is our only career,” Valdez said. “My face is heavily tattooed. I wouldn’t be able to get a job anywhere else.”

Because tattoo artists are independent contractors, they have not received unemployment, Brown said.

On March 18, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Health was ordering the temporary closure of barbershops, hair salons and tattoo parlors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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DeWine announced last week hair salons and barbershop and outdoor dining for restaurants could reopen May 15.

No announcement has been made on when tattoo shops will be allowed to reopen, but both tattoo shop owners said they are expecting they may be allowed to reopen by the end of the month.

“There’s no official answer really, so that’s been kind of frustrating,” Ali Ameny, manager, piercer and cosmetic tattoo artist at Flesh to Fantasy Springfield said. “I mean we understand that tattoos, piercings are a luxury. We understand why it’s been put off for a later date.”

Brown said, “I get it, but they’re opening up dentists and you can’t social distance from somebody’s mouth.”

Valdez explained that this month would have been their strongest month due to the increase of clients during tax season.

“We generate so much business,” Valdez said. “Those savings are what helps us through the slow months at the end of the year.”

Friends and customers of the tattoo artists have set up a gofundme account to help provide financial assistance while they wait for the OK to reopen.

To prepare for reopening, both tattoo owners are following tattoo Facebook groups to help them determine the additional precautionary steps they will take.

Brown said artists and clients will wear masks during their sessions. He is also thinking about purchasing scrubs for his artists to wear.

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Other precautionary steps include having clients wash hands upon arrival and departure, limiting the number of people in the studio to the clients and artists only, allocating additional time for cleaning and disinfecting and spacing-out appointments to support social distancing, Valdez explained.

“I do think this is going to change the business a lot,” Brown said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of people that’s going to be able to hang in there.”

One change Brown said he is expecting is that tattoo sessions will be on an appointment-only basis to help ensure social distancing guidelines. This could potentially affect his tattoo artist that takes all of the walk-ins.

Prior to the pandemic, Brown said he was booked four to five months in advance.

“A lot of people are getting hit in the economy, so who’s to say people are going to really want to start getting tattoos after this is all over,” Brown said.

All three artists said they miss going into their shops and seeing their clients.

“It’s a huge change and I don’t like it,” Brown said. “But, I understand why we have to do it.”

Valdez explained that prior to the pandemic he was tattooing every day of the week.

“I love tattooing. It’s my only passion,” Valdez said. “Tattooing is like an outlet for me.”

“We miss doing it. We miss seeing everyone,” Ameny said. “We’re excited to get back to it when we can.”

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