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Commissioner asks board to reconsider classification for tattoo shops in Forsyth County
tattoo
Akram Huseyn, unsplash

Forsyth County might be getting “with the times” soon following a recent board of commissioners' work session.

District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson asked commissioners during the work session on Tuesday, Nov. 23, to consider removing the “adult-related business” classification for tattoo and body art businesses.

“[Tattoo and piercing shops are a] popular thing that people look for; it’s very common to see people asking for referrals within the community, whether they’re asking people that they know or they’re asking on social media,” Semanson said. “And they have to travel outside of the county to do that.”

“I think it’s just time for us … to get with the times,” she said.

Semanson suggested moving tattoos and piercing businesses under the “personal service” classification alongside hairdressers and other similar businesses.

She explained that the studies cited that classified different businesses as being “adult-related” were from 1986 at the latest, which she felt was outdated.

“I felt it was time to take a look at why [tattoo and body art businesses were prohibited], and the deeper I got into it, the more I was able to discover that this business is being treated as a pariah,” Semanson said.


“There is not significant, current data that supports the idea that this [creates] any type of increase in crime or anything of that nature,” she said. “It’s just different.”

District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper thought that the business was more “cosmetic” than “adult-related.”

Tattoo and body art businesses are currently classified with “strip clubs and [pornography] shops” in Chapter 10 of the county’s code of ordinances.

“Today, people use tattoos for a number of things,” Semanson said. “They’re meant to celebrate things; there are a lot of people who celebrate overcoming a disease or people who celebrate running 26.2 miles …. It’s just a very different thing now.”

District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent expressed concerns about signage if tattoo and body art businesses became permitted.

“Is there going to be a huge thing that says ‘tattoo parlor’ out in front of these stores?” Levent said. “Because I’m going to tell you, you’re going to get a lot of backlash from that from … citizens.”

Levent compared the businesses to massage parlors and vape shops, saying the county would need to be diligent with sign regulations so that they are “not as out-there.”

Semanson said she felt the county had a “significant” sign ordinance that is strict and that she wouldn’t want to limit what shop owners could advertise.

She proposed creating conditional-use permit regulations to help commissioners have more judgement about the businesses. District 2 Commissioner Alfred John agreed, saying tattoos and piercings have become “more and more mainstream.”

 “The world is transitioning,” John said. “Even if you look at dress code, for example. [About] 50 years ago, everybody came in a white shirt, black pants and a black tie. Now, those rules have loosened up significantly.”

“[But] maybe we do consider a [conditional-use permit],” he said. “So that we can exercise a little bit more discretion as to where [the business] goes.”

Commissioners asked County Attorney Ken Jarrard to find some “tattoo [conditional-use permit] language” from neighboring counties and cities and to “start crafting out some potential [conditional-use permit] parameters.”

Jarrard said he will bring back the information at a future work session.