Canton board lifts tattoo shop ban

By DeeAnna Haney | Nov 29, 2012
Photo by: DeeAnna Haney Nathan Poston stands in downtown Canton, where he plans to open the town's first tattoo parlor and art gallery.

After a 30-year ban on tattoo parlors in Canton, the town's board of aldermen have decided to change the ordinance, although some restrictions will apply.

The decision came after Canton resident Nathan Poston approached the board about opening a tattoo shop and upscale art gallery.

Poston's convincing presentation of an in-depth business plan prompted the board to pass the idea on to the town's planning board. After careful consideration, the planning board drafted a new ordinance that would allow tattoo shops, but with several conditions.

The original ordinance prohibiting tattoo shops, which was drafted in 1984, made it illegal for anyone to tattoo another person or operate a tattooing business.

The new ordinance adopted at Tuesday's meeting states that tattooing is allowed after the store owner receives a conditional use permit.

Tattoo parlors in Canton are not allowed to sell alcohol, except for when applying for a special occasion permit. They are also prohibited from selling smoking paraphernalia such as hookahs or glass pipes and piercing is not allowed.

The planning board also required such stores must only operate between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Each alderman on the four-man board voted unanimously to accept the ordinance and spoke in favor of having a new business in town, even if it meant changing Canton's traditional views.

Aldermen Jimmy Flynn and Ed Underwood each said they took time to ask several residents their opinions about tattoo shops, and received little negative feedback.

"I think over the recent years tattooing has become a little more socially acceptable than it used to be years back," said Alderman Kenneth Holland. "Mr. Poston has presented a plan to us to operate an upscale type of business that will be operated in a safe and sanitary fashion. I, myself, am in favor of opening here in Canton, and we welcome him.”

Alderman Patrick Willis echoed Holland's support, saying, "I just think it was an old ordinance and I’m all in favor of new businesses in town. This is not a traditional business but I still want every business here in town to succeed,” Willis said.

Each board member said as long as store owners follow the rules, they believe a tattoo shop will be a success in town.

In order to open a tattoo parlor, the owner must apply for a conditional use permit and then a business permit. They must also adhere to all county and state guidelines.

Tattoo shops will be allowed in the Central and General Business zones of town, which includes not only downtown areas such as Main Street and Park Street, but also on Radio Hill and parts of Champion Drive, said Town Manager Al Matthews.

Although there have been several requests from people in the past who wanted to open a tattoo shop, they did not pursue the idea after they were told there was a ban, Matthews said. Poston is the first to go through the process to prompt the change.

Canton’s first tattoo shop

For Poston, opening a tattoo parlor in Canton seems like the next sensible step for his career.

Growing up in Cruso, Poston always had an artistic side. But it wasn’t until he moved to Albany, New York, that he was given his first tattoo gun and realized he could translate his talents into skin art.

He began to practice tattooing on himself and friends and eventually opened his own shop.

After moving back to Haywood County last year, Poston realized that tattooing could be a niche market in towns such as Canton or Clyde.

Over the summer, Poston took his business plan to the Clyde board of aldermen, who, to his surprise, decided to allow tattooing in the small town.

But Poston’s vision for his tattoo shop was in downtown Canton, so in August he came before the Canton board as well.

“I was told by people that I would get shot down and that it would never pass,” he said. “I was nervous but I said the worst they could say to me was, ‘No.’”

Now that the ban on tattooing in the town has been lifted, Poston is not wasting any time. He hopes to open his shop, to be called ‘Images for the Blind,’ in one of the currently vacant storefronts on Main Street by Spring.

Aside from tattooing, he said the store will also be an upscale art gallery with original pieces from sculpture to jewelry.

The unique store name was taken from the name of his first art exhibition, which has sentimental value for Poston.

“It’s taken from some of my favorite songs, like ‘Blind’ by Korn. It is supposed to give meaning for people who have no direction,” he said.

Poston uses surrealism and realism in his art, which is sometimes dark, he said. He is inspired by life experiences and enjoys incorporating recycled materials into his art such as old cans, metal and wire.

He also plans to sell T-shirts, hats, posters and other miscellaneous items to cater to a wider audience.

While he expects musicians, bikers, skate boarders and race car drivers will be most attracted to his work, he said he hopes to case a wide net.

“Even seasoned upper class art collectors can be excited by the collectability, skill and vision that makes my work unique,” he said.

While the store will begin his own project, he said he will consider bringing in other tattoo artists as long as they complement his own works.