Reader: Tattoo Businesses Are Not Whiney Little Babies

Alicia Cardenas at Sol Tribe.
Alicia Cardenas at Sol Tribe.
Jake Cox
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Most years, city public-health inspectors regularly visit tattoo shops around Denver. Yet during the pandemic, tattoo shops did not receive any industry-specific guidance from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment about how to operate safely, according to Alicia Cardenas, artist and owner of tattoo/piercing shop Sol Tribe.

And she was looking for such guidance. "There is this real gray area of how to function," Cardenas says. "It’s tricky. The small businesses haven’t gotten any support. ... We have been abandoned by our department of health."

In their comments on the Westword Facebook page, where we posted Kyle Harris's "Denver Tattoo Artist: City Health Inspectors Have Abandoned Us," readers have been divided as to whether that lack of attention was a bad thing...or a bonus. Says Aaron: 

Alicia is the kid who reminded the teacher they didn't give any homework before the weekend.

Adds Jean:

Really? With all the service industry out of jobs, you are complaining? If you are so smart, you can figure out what needs to be done to be safe. I’m sure all your fellow tattoo artists are so happy that you are pointing out that you get to stay open , make money and are asking to be shut down.

Responds Rebecca:

How is asking for guidance on how to safely navigate a deadly pandemic "complaining"?

Notes Stephen: 

These businesses are used to having to keep people's health at the forefront, so they're not whiney little babies about it.

Explains Kyle: 

Getting some guidance, ways to keep people safe, is far better than a shutdown. Tattoo shops have been largely ignored in this process, which has them scared of their own shadow, not being proactive in running their businesses.

Suggets Michael:

Use common sense when you walk into a shop. And make sure everything is opened in front of you. If it's already open, then ask for new stuff — and if they refuse, walk out. The disposable supplies cost practically nothing and the reusable ones are cleaned and resealed for pennies.

And Scott concludes:

The government has abandoned you...right up until taxes are due.

But as it turns out, Sol Tribe did finally get the attention Cardenas was seeking from the city. A few days after Harris's piece was published, she got a call from the department of health. "It wasn't my inspector, it was his supervisor," she reports. "Media makes people work! I am reflecting right now on what a powerful tool you wield in journalism, and in this moment, I am super grateful for it being used for good for my community and my livelihood. So that's a wholehearted thanks!"

Is this a happy ending? Or unwanted attention from the city for the tattoo industry? Post a comment or email your thoughts to editorial@westword.com.

Read Kyle Harris's original story about Cardenas here

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