ELK GROVE --
A local business owner is fighting to open the first tattoo shop in Elk Grove.
"There are zero tattoo shops. I'm positive on it," Josh Hughes said.
Hughes is right. Thursday night, the city of Elk Grove confirmed there are currently no tattoo shops operating within its city limits.
The city's associate planner Nate Anderson spoke with FOX40 over the phone, saying that Elk Grove's zoning code requires prospective tattoo shop owners to apply for conditional use permits. That code lists tattoo shops, fortune tellers, psychics and check cashing businesses as "Personal Services, Restricted," and says those types of establishments "may tend to have a blighting and/or deteriorating effect on surrounding areas, which may need to be dispersed to minimize their adverse impacts."
"It's just ridiculous," Hughes said.
Hughes has been operating Emerald Tattoos in Lodi and Modesto for years and wants to expand to Elk Grove so locals don't have to take their business out of town.
He's been leasing a storefront on Elk Grove-Florin Road since January, paying thousands of dollars for space rent, permit application, lawyers and architects, with the hope that the city will approve his shop.
"It's a huge risk. I'm in over $40,000 so far. And they can still say no," Hughes said.
Hughes said he thinks the city's zoning code stereotypes tattoo shops and labels them as something they are not.
One of the business owners who operates in the same shopping center Emerald Tattoos may open in said he thinks the city's zoning code lumps businesses together that it shouldn't.
"I don't think it's right to put those things in the same category. I think each business is it's own," Brent Bohlmann said.
Bohlmann owns Sage Mill, a restaurant on Elk Grove-Florin Road. He is one of several nearby business owners who think by restricting tattoo shops in Elk Grove, the city is losing other kinds of business.
"I think it's gonna be good for my business and I think he's gonna bring me a lot of clientele but I'm excited for Elk Grove, too. Right now we have to go downtown or to Lodi for people who want those services.
Elk Grove's Associate Planner Nate Anderson said the city does not restrict tattoo shops, so much as it considers them conditionally. He said he only recounted one other tattoo shop applying to open in Elk Grove in the past decade and that it was denied a permit to open because of zoning restrictions downtown.
Hughes said he did research for months to find a location for his new shop that didn't conflict with other businesses and was somewhat tucked away from the street, so that it didn't pose a problem to anybody.
"People need to realize we're not the characters they think we are. We're just people. Instead of getting out hair permed or our eyebrows done or our nails done, we get tattoos.
The Elk Grove planning commission is meeting Thursday April 7 to review the conditional use permit for Emerald Tattoos at 6 p.m. at 8400 Laguna Palms Way.