The information in this blog is not intended to be legal advice. Postings are for informational purposes only and cannot replace specific legal advice from an attorney.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Law Regulating Tattoo and Body Art Establishments

Summary of the New Law

Beginning July 1, 2010 the State of Minnesota will step into the realm of regulating body art – which includes tattooing and body piercing, scarification and body modification such as tongue bifurcation (herein after referred to collectively as “body art”). See MN Laws 2010 Chapter 317 (a link may be found at the end of this entry).

The state will offer two types of licensure – licenses for establishments where body art is conducted and licenses for persons performing body art procedures in these establishments. To do this type of work everyone must be licensed - without exception - across the state.

How the New Law Effects Cities

Cities that previously regulated body art establishments may continue to do so – if their local ordinances are as strict as the state requirements. It should be noted that establishments in cities with local ordinances will not need to obtain the new state license.

Cities may not continue to license persons practicing body art. These practitioners must now be licensed exclusively by the state.

Cities may continue to enforce zoning, building and construction requirements, nuisance control and commercial licensing of businesses in general without interruption against body art establishments.

How Should Cities Respond to the New Law?

The new law means that city councils will probably have to spend some time thinking about tattoos, piercings and tongue bifurcation. Maybe that isn’t exactly a happy thought.

All body art practitioners and establishments will need to obtain a new state license by January 1, 2011. If they fail to obtain a license, they may no longer legally perform their services in the State of Minnesota. They may also face stiff penalties for failing to comply.

With the new state regulation hanging over their heads, body art establishment owners located in your city may start visiting city hall with some questions. For example, in cities that already regulate body art establishments, the owner may be asking 1) do local standards meet the new state standards? 2) do I need to get a local license now or a state license?

Cities that currently do not license body art establishments may get requests that the city start regulating this area. Often local business owners prefer to deal with a city entity rather than a state entity. The establishment owner might view city regulation as less expensive, easier to obtain licenses and/or easier to negotiate any future difficulties that may arise.

The Most Important Question: Do We Still Want to Regulate This?

Even if the city doesn’t get these questions from local body art establishment owners, the city council may still need to review local ordinance. The most important question to ask is: do we still want to regulate this? In my experience, cities are reluctant regulators on this topic. Most of the cities that have called me for sample ordinances on these establishments were surprised to learn that the state wasn’t already heavily regulating body art.

Some other questions that it might be worthwhile to consider are:

• Can we do this as well as the state?
• If the state is willing to regulate this area, is it worth the expense for us to regulate locally?
• Do we want (or currently have) stricter standards than what the state requires? Will state regulation be adequate to protect resident safety?
• If our current ordinance is less restrictive than the state requirements, are we willing to commit to amending the local ordinance to bring it up to snuff?
• If local ordinance is currently less restrictive, are we interested in having staff assume new duties related to inspection and license issuance?

If the city wishes to continue to regulate this area, the new law must be reviewed carefully and compared to the existing ordinance – particularly the “health and safety standards” portion and the sections regulating home businesses. The city may have stricter standards than the state law. In addition, a city may choose via local ordinance to “limit the types of body art procedures that may be performed in body art establishments located within its jurisdiction.” (See Minn. Law Chapter 317, Section 2, Subdivision 9). This feature may be an argument for some cities to maintain their local ordinances.

Key Features of the New Law for Establishments

Under the new law, body art establishments may obtain a license good for three (3) years. With each new license issued, an inspection must be performed. Thereafter, inspections must occur at least once during the three year licensure period.

The law itself must me read for the detailed provisions on procedures and health standards. Some key items, however, include the following. Establishments must:

• Meet all local and state health and safety codes for buildings and not constitute a public health nuisance;
• Maintain records on the licensure and training of employees and on clients serviced at the establishment;
• Establishments in private homes must be completely separate from living, eating and bathroom areas in the home;
• Properly dispose of sharps, blood or body fluids, or items contaminated
by blood or body fluids;
• Use only single use needles and perform body art procedures in a sterile area;
• Obtain and properly maintain sterilization equipment;
• Maintain records related to “spore” tests conducted on equipment sterilizers.

The new law also contains extensive procedures for the revocation of establishment licenses where violations have occurred. In addition, violations may be punished by a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 that includes costs for investigation and prosecution of the violation.


I almost wish I were a fly on the wall – able to sit in on the council discussions related to body art and tongue bifurcation that will inevitably arise in many of Minnesota’s city council chambers in the next few months. Rather than being a new mandate for regulation to cities, this new law presents cities with some interesting choices to consider. I hope this blog entry helps inform what is sure to be a colorful and varied to discussion.

Finally, for those of you who need the details of the new law. Here is a link to take you right there:

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