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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Jun. 9, 2020 1 month ago

Inked in history: What reopening a tattoo parlor looks like during COVID-19

Willie Perry has been in the tattoo business for decades. His parlor had never been shut down this long.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

What does getting a tattoo look like during a pandemic?

At Willie's Tropical Tattoo near Ormond Beach, everyone wears masks and gets asked routine health questions before going under the needle. After an extended closure, it's what owner Willie Perry and his other artists have to do to get back to work.

Tattoo parlors across the state were allowed to reopen on Friday, June 5, as part of the governor's phase 2 of Florida's plan to reopen. For Perry, the decision took longer than expected. As a personal service, he thought he would be allowed to reopen his parlor when hair salons and barbershops were given the OK to renew business on May 11. The governor's decision to group tattoo parlors with the reopening of bars disappointed him.

“It’s nothing like going to some of these bars where people are shoulder-to-shoulder and you can’t even get into the place without bumping into people," Perry said.

At first, when it was looking like the closures would only last a couple of weeks, Perry said he was fine with it. 

“Two weeks I could live with, but when it extended out, it was really getting to us," Perry said.

Willie Perry has owned his tattoo parlor since the 90s. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

Tropical Tattoo, located at 825 S. Yonge St., went from having seven full-time artists to four. Perry said he understood the situation was unprecedented, but said he still wished there had been clear direction for businesses from the very beginning. 

“It was very frustrating because you didn’t know what was going on," he said. "You didn’t know when we would be able to come back to work. Everybody was kind of up in the air about everything.”

Since reopening, Perry applied for the county's $3,000 relief grant for small businesses. The parlor has reopened with a focus on appointments to help with social distancing, and business has been fairly steady, Perry said. 

One thing he's learned from the situation is to be more conservative in regards to saving money. As Floridians, we're used to hurricanes closing down businesses, he said — but those closures have only ever lasted three to four days maximum. Since he opened Tropical Tattoos in the 90s, Perry had never experienced a closure lasting this long.

“It was very devastating that we were shut down for so long and not knowing what was going on and stuff, but I look to the future and I think we’re all going to be fine," Perry said. "Everything is going to work out, if we make it through hurricane season.”


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