Thursday, February 22, 2007

Westminster Ink: A Tale of Two Cities...

As I'm sure many readers are aware, this month Westminster banned tattoo parlors from opening in its downtown historic district because, to quote from a Baltimore Examiner story, "'Our Main Street is a historic Main Street that is quaint and has small boutiques that are family-oriented,' Council Member Gregory Pecoraro said. 'This is part of what we are trying to create.'"

There are so many things wrong with that statement, I'm not even completely sure where to begin - so I'm just going to choose a random place and work my way through the issues.

Let's start with this concept - the City of Frederick, which, by all accounts, has experienced something of a Renaissance over the course of the last decade, is very family friendly. The city hosts four tattoo parlors either in, or on the edge of the Historic District - three are within a block of each other. The three within a block of each other are in a block and a half stretch that until recently has struggled to retain businesses. In the last twenty months the area has welcomed three new retail presences, two new restaurants, and a salon.

In previous discussions I have had with the director of Westminster's Department of Economic Development (when working for the Gazette), Stanley Ruchlewicz said that the hopes are that Westminster can experience the same success Frederick has experienced in revitalizing its downtown. For the record, Ruchlewicz was against this ban.

Let's take a look at the concept of "family oriented" from both a financial and a social standpoint. Sure, the tattoo parlor is not exactly the first place that most Americans are looking to bring their children, but you have to look at what a destination business does for other businesses.

Tattoos are not short work, and college age people through their mid-twenties will often go with friends to get their tattoos - the friend might not be getting one, but you often get the moral supporter along for the ride. These people spend significant time in these areas and will often spend other money at the local bars and restaurants. There's the financial, now for the social.

When I was growing up in the 1970's and 1980's there was a certain perception about people with tattoos. They were worn by the rebellious, the fringe, the dangerous. They were a warning sign telling the middle and upper-classes "beware of me, I'm the boogeyman." With everyone and their mother getting them now of days, the idea that people with tattoos are not the "family-oriented" types that Westminster wants to attract, then maybe it would be for the best that the tattooed freaks don't visit Westminster.

By the way - that dragonfly on the left is on my wife and I designed it for her.


Tam said...

I'm a respectable (at least I think so), middle-aged, white-collar worker with a small amount of disposable income and have seen nothing of interest in my drives through Westminster. If they had a tattoo parlor, a coffee shop &/or a used bookstore, I'd be more than happy to stop and give them some of my income.

Kevin Smith said...

I have to admit, in my few times in Westminster, I've noticed one or two bars, the theater and little else that really has caught my eye - although the downtown does have potential.

It's just a shame that the members of the council are approaching this with such a jaundiced eye in regards to who gets tattoos and the type of people these businesses attract.

riderx said...

Does that mean existing tattoo parlors can stay or must they go? Isn't Little Vinny's on main street in Westminster?

Kevin Smith said...

According to published reports, the existing businesses get to stay - however, if they have to close down for renovations and have to be closed for more than 6 months (even if the problem is that the city is dragging its heels on a much needed permit to cause the closing to last this long) then the tattoo parlor would not be allowed to reopen.