‘It’s just old laws:’ Petition calls for change in tattoo zoning restrictions in Myrtle Beach

Tattoo Shop Zoning in Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The owner of a Myrtle Beach tattoo shop is petitioning to change the city’s laws.

Right now, most tattoo shops in Myrtle Beach are limited to an area along Seaboard Street. This is due to zoning restrictions that state tattoo shops have to be at least 1,000 feet from any school, playground or church.

Jessica Fogle is the co-owner of Deathless Cords, a company that creates clip cords for tattoo guns. She said Myrtle Beach is way behind the times when it comes to the tattoo industry.

Fogle recently moved to the Grand Strand in hopes of opening a workshop for her business and a private tattoo studio. However, because of zoning restrictions, she’s at a standstill.

Coming from larger cities, Fogle said she was shocked to find out about Myrtle Beach’s zoning restrictions when it comes to tattoo shops.

“We’re asking that they just loosen up a little bit like all of the other cities have. It’s actually protected by the First Amendment. Tattooing, the process of tattooing, designing the tattoo, and the act of wearing a tattoo is all freedom of expression,” said Fogle.

South Carolina was one of the last two states to legalize tattooing. Until 2004, tattoo parlors were illegal in the state.

“With no history of the use in the state, most jurisdictions were extremely cautious in how they were incorporated into existing zoning. The WM designation and separation requirements are evidence of that,” said Carol Coleman, planning director for the City of Myrtle Beach.

Fogle said she had no other option but to open up her shop in Surfside Beach near U.S. 17 Business, tucked away by the warehouses. Since there’s two churches in the building, they’re not allowed to set up a private tattoo studio. The owner believes if tattoo shops were able to operate outside of the wholesale and manufacturing district they’re currently restricted to, business would double.

“We are asking that they just let us spread out a little bit so that we don't have to fight each other for the same clients. We're asking that we're able to have an equal opportunity to succeed financially,” said Fogle.

Fogle added the restrictions aren’t good for business or customers in the city, noting the area doesn’t generate enough foot traffic or attract tourists. She said the city would benefit from amending the zoning ordinance too.

“Bike Week. Bike Week goes on, they roll out the red carpet for them, they bring in millions of dollars to the city, it makes up a huge percentage of small business revenue. We should have the right to do that with tattoo conventions, have the Ink Master-level artists involved. Give the residents here an opportunity to get some serious quality work that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise, somebody coming in from Australia just for this event. They shouldn’t have to travel hours to get a famous artist to tattoo them, but no famous artist is going to come here as the laws are right now,” said Fogle.

So far, she said the feedback from the community and other major tattoo artists has been great, with the petition garnering over 600 signatures.

Fogle said since the tattoo industry is so mainstream now, she hopes Myrtle Beach city leaders will realize it brings in an additional source of revenue.

“It’ll definitely bring on some more money, it’ll bring in better quality artists. There’s really a lot of laws that needs to change. It’s just old laws. It’s time to move them into the modern times. Tattoos are mainstream," she said.

Fogle plans to meet with the Myrtle Beach Planning Commission on Wednesday to discuss plans moving forward.

Department heads said they are unable to comment at this time until they have a formal application submitted. Coleman said in order to change the zoning, Fogle will have to make an application to amend the ordinance.

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