The Westminster City Council voted unanimously last night to ban tattoo parlors from the downtown business district - a move to further its vision of a revitalized Main Street.
"I think we're taking a pretty reasonable position," Councilman Gregory Pecoraro said before the voting.
Council members stressed that the ban does not prevent tattoo parlors from operating in 70 percent of the commercial areas within the city limits, most of which extend along Route 140. Two tattoo businesses that opened downtown before the ban will be allowed to remain.
"All this is doing is limiting the number of tattoo parlors to the existing ones here," said Councilman Robert P. Wack.
Westminster officials have long considered tattoo shops contrary to their downtown redevelopment vision that started emerging in the early 1990s, Pecoraro said. They have worried about whether permitting more of them would slow economic growth in a city center where 6 percent of the retail storefronts are vacant.
Residents of downtown Pennsylvania Avenue also objected to such establishments opening on or near their homes.
The City Council had tried to prevent new tattoo parlors from setting up downtown in late 1999. That is when Westminster created a new downtown business zone, adding restrictions for much of the city center. Only the types of businesses listed on the ordinance were to be allowed.
Tattoo parlors were not explicitly banned in the business zone, which allowed "specialty shops."
The ordinance bars new tattoo parlors - and gun shops - from Westminster's downtown district. Critics of the measure, including some from nearby McDaniel College, said that the tattoo ban could hamper Westminster's revitalization goals to fill vacant downtown buildings and lure more young people to shop there.