Booked and busy: Tattoo shops back to inking eager customers under new public health guidelines
KITCHENER -- Getting inked looks a little different during a pandemic, but that's not stopping many people from visiting local tattoo parlours.
Since the opened a week ago, some shop owners say business is booming, but that health and safety is top priority.
Walk-ins are no longer allowed at Steel n Ink Guelph. That rule goes for both tattoos and piercings.
They're also requiring clients to wear a facemask, arrive alone and to leave bags, food and drinks in their cars before an appointment.
But the new rules aren't deterring prospective clients like Austin Birkett, who has had two tattoos done in a matter of days.
"I've started once and I'm not going to stop now," he says.
After months in quarantine, Birkett says he's just happy to get out of the house.
His tattoo artist, RJ Poston, is fully booked for the next three weeks, but it's not exactly business as usual: the shop is a lot less busy inside, but busier online.
"It makes it more streamlined with the bookings, so it's video consults rather than face-to-face," Poston says.
Steel n Ink say they're taking the new health and safety measures laid out by public health officials very seriously.
Masks are kept on at all times, they're doing more cleaning, tattoo chairs are a safe distance apart, and they're donning additional personal protective equipment.
Over at Nighthawk Tattoos, you can get your ears pierced, but nothing can be pierced under the mask.
When it comes to facial piercings, the rules seem to differ depending on the city. In Guelph, ear piercings are allowed, but in Waterloo Region, they're not.
Tattoos around the head are also off-limits under new public health guidelines.
"We're just avoiding anything that may interfere with the neck or bring us too close to the face," explains Mark McAlpine at Nighthawk.
Katt Marie won't have that problem: she got a tattoo of Medusa on her thigh.
Her original appointment had been cancelled due to the pandemic.
"I did a little dance in the kitchen when I got the call," she says.
Tattoo shops were allowed to reopen on June 12 as the province entered its second stage of reopening the economy, but Nighthawk Tattoo took a few extra days to ensure everything met the new safety standards.
"It was a little bit nerve-wracking those first couple of days, just getting the flow again and being comfortable," McAlpine admits.
Many tattoo shops say they've been busier than ever since they reopened, some limiting their operations to ease back into the new normal.