Ever since Brittany Arizona returned to her hometown of DeLand three years ago, she has attempted to open her own business inside the city limits.
The problem? Arizona is a tattoo artist, and DeLand has strict zoning regulations against tattoo parlors.
Tattoo shops that want to open within city limits have to adhere to a special buffer designation that requires a 60-foot buffer between the shop and the roadway, with “opaque screening,” meaning the shop must be behind tree cover or fencing.
No building in Downtown DeLand fits that description, and very few do that are outside of the central business core, but still in DeLand.
Six tattoo parlors dot the boundary that divides unincorporated Volusia County and the city of DeLand — none of them are within city limits.
“They put requirements on the buildings that most of the buildings in DeLand don’t meet,” Arizona said. “And I feel like they do that on purpose to make sure tattooing isn’t happening within the city.”
Arizona’s shop, Always Anchored Tattoo, at 198 N. Spring Garden Ave., is one of four tattoo shops within 1 mile of each other on State Road 15A, just outside city limits.
Arizona said that stigmas attached to tattooing are outdated and discriminatory.
“Tattooing is not just for gangs anymore. We’re tattooing lawyers and doctors and teachers,” Arizona said. “The Downtown area is considered the art district, right? But we’re kind of discriminating against specific artists. If you’re a fine artist, obviously you can open up Downtown. And then tattooing is considered like the poor man’s fine art.”
Like Arizona, DeLandite Tom Homan, a longtime piercer at Subculturez, at 2481 N. Volusia Ave., near Orange City, has long pushed for tattooing regulations to be overhauled.
“Tattooing is now an elevated thing — the people doing it aren’t sketchy bikers learning how to scratch on people,” Homan said. “They’re usually art-school graduates that have chosen a different career path, one where they can actively make money doing art because how often do you get to make a regular paycheck doing art?”
The efforts of both Homan and Arizona have been yearslong.
“When I first tried to open the shop, I didn’t realize that tattooing wasn’t allowed Downtown. So three years ago, I was sending the zoning department all these properties like, oh, would this work? Would this work? And they kept saying no, that won’t work,” Arizona said.
“The couple of times that I’ve tried to deal with zoning, I was just shut down immediately,” Homan said. “Earlier on, we were literally laughed at, like they thought it was absurd.”
Tattoo shops are unlike nearly any other business in the zoning language of DeLand’s municipal code.
“There’s [cannabinoid] dispensaries that opened up Downtown. The fact that those got through before us is wild to me,” Homan said. “But that’s because they didn’t have specific rules — they didn’t exist; there was no precedent, so there’s no specific rules against them. Whereas we have very specific rules written against us.”
But they see possibilities in the new DeLand City Commission. Mayor Chris Cloudman has also met with Arizona, and more than one commissioner has seemed open to the idea.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Commissioner Dan Reed said. “I think the stigma behind tattoos has just kind of worn off, and I think it’s time to make a change.”
Reed, who has six tattoos, pointed out that tattoo parlors, unlike other businesses like law offices, bring foot traffic, something Arizona echoed.
“I have clients that come from outside of DeLand to DeLand, to get tattooed by me. So it’s like — they’re hanging out. They’re grabbing food in DeLand, they’re going Downtown,” Arizona said.
Arizona and Homan are part of an upcoming generation of DeLandites who have — or want to — opened businesses in their hometown.
“I think DeLand’s improved a lot. The bars are improving, the businesses and restaurants are improving,” Always Anchored tattoo artist Chase Berenson said. “And we’re part of that, and right now the city won’t let us be a part of it.”
“We want to do more with the community,” Arizona said. “I think DeLand’s ready for it.”
Editor’s note: The author of this news story has seven tattoos.
Be careful what you wish for. You move your shop to downtown DeLand and then you wont have anywhere for your customers to park.
To be quite honest, it’s against our first amendment rights to not allow a studio to operate in any area, because of the freedom of speech. This was proved by my friend from Ohio in a lawsuit with key west. It was a historic district and they didn’t want a tattoo studio. After five years, he won $425,000 in a lawsuit, there is now case law established by two supreme Court judges . You can Google it Buehrle versus Key West tattoo lawsuit.
Convicted pedophile running a record store, no problem, weed dispensary, sure. Permanent makeup…tattooed eyebrows gets a pass. This is why Sanford and Mount Dora have far surpassed downtown Deland. They just rest on their laurels. If and when a tattoo shop does open I just hope they can bring in some talent. Shout out to Mike Young, owner of subculturez for being the first person to fight through the red tape and open the areas first shop