California judge rules against tattoo artists struggling through lockdown

Is making a living as a tattoo artist “essential?” Not according to one California judge.

In another setback for business owners in the state, struggling tattoo shops in southern California will remain closed after a judge said no to a First Amendment complaint, the New York Post reported.

Judge denies lawsuit

Like many business owners, Glenn West of Palace Art Tattoo in Thousand Oaks and Tiffany Mitchell of Black Raven Tattoo in Torrance are struggling to stay afloat amid a third wave of shutdowns in California.

They and other tattoo shops sued the state to stay open, arguing that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) restrictions contravened First Amendment protections of free expression. U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer wasn’t convinced by that argument, however.

While artists can conceive of designs, they can’t actually print them, the judge said, arguing that the public interest of fighting the virus outweighs First Amendment considerations, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Fischer also said that tattoo shops had not been treated differently than other enterprises. “Singling out by definition would require tattoo parlors to be treated uniquely from all other types of businesses or to bear disproportionately the burden of the restriction,” he wrote, according to CBS Los Angeles.

Tattoo shops more dangerous?

West, meanwhile, said that his shop is “much safer” than a local, crowded Target.

Countless Americans have lodged similar complaints in courtrooms, to sympathetic friends and into the void of social media about the seemingly arbitrary nature of lockdown orders and the economic ruin they have inflicted.

But the judge in this case cited a state expert who claimed that tattoo shops are more dangerous than retail businesses. “Tattoo services, and other personal care services, in comparison to retail businesses, present a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission due to the activities involving close physical proximity of longer duration in smaller airspace,” Dr. James Watt of the state health department said, as CBS Los Angeles reported.

Businesses struggling

This is just the latest loss for business owners since Newsom implemented another stay-at-home order in parts of the state including Southern California.

In San Diego, a federal judge ruled just before Christmas that restaurants could open, only for an appeals court to intervene and reverse the injunction.

After burning through the last of his savings and a loan, West, like so many across America, is wondering how he’ll keep the lights on. “That covered the first shutdown,” West said, according to the L.A. Times. “Like, what now?”

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