TORRANCE, Calif. — The unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic and the regulations that followed left a mark on Tiffany Mitchell's mental health and finances as tattoo shops were forced to remain closed.
"We just went through so many emotions and feelings of worry and panic and stress and anxiety," Mitchell said.
Hundreds of tattoo artists like Mitchell have been left without an income since the beginning of the pandemic. As indoor hair salons and nail services reopened, state and county regulations left tattoo shops closed. That's why Mitchell and a few other tattoo shop owners decided to take matters into their own hands and filed a lawsuit against state health officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow them to reopen.
Recently, state health officials granted their wish as they allowed tattoo shops to reopen indoors. It's a bittersweet victory for Mitchell, who said it should have come sooner.
"It's really great to be back to work. But now, we really [have] to work harder," Mitchell said.
Inside Mitchell's Black Raven Tattoo shop in Old Torrance, artists and clients utilize new protocols to keep everyone safe. Tattoos are now by appointment only, and artists keep clients' booths apart with mandatory masks for all. The shop also requires temperature checks before clients step into disinfected areas. While the experience might be slightly different for clients such as Eric Kraus, he's happy to get fresh ink finally.
"It feels good. I feel safe and confident with all the changes that they have made in the shop, so I'm just happy to get it done," Kraus said.
Now, Mitchell hopes that the pandemic's impact won't leave a permanent mark on her business.
"Many other Americans who may have had some extra disposable income for tattoos, no longer have that anymore. So, we're hoping that business doesn't continue to suffer or stay slow," Mitchell said.
While Mitchell can't help but wonder if tattoo artists will be able to fill each chair, she said she's determined to see less red ink.