Ink begins to flow again at tattoo shops

San Benito County moves into stage three

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Ruby Zaragoza [right] went to Faultline Tattoo in Hollister to get some art work done on her back. The shop reopened for the first time in three months after it shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Juan Reyes)

San Benito County officials allowed businesses such as tattoo parlors to move into Stage 3 for personal care services beginning June 19. 

Matt Gomez, who owns Only the Honorable Tattoos at 520 San Benito Street, said he’s been getting bombarded since last week with phone calls and text messages from clients asking when they could get back in the chair.

“But it’s good, it’s not a bad thing,” he said.

Gomez said he’d been keeping a close eye on when tattoo shops would be able to reopen again after they were forced to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

County Interim Public Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci last week gave approval for the county to move into the third stage of the state’s so called “road map” to reopen. 

Gomez said it felt good to get back inside the shop after a three month absence. He also mentioned they didn’t have to make any major adjustments, stating that the tattoo industry is one of the cleanest when it comes to sanitation. 

“We’re probably cleaner than most of the places that were open before us. Even the barbershops,” he said. “We’re constantly sterilizing and we’re constantly wiping down everything. The only difference was the mask.”  

Gomez, 38, said he was a little upset at the fact that other businesses were able to open before them. But he said he understands the situation and will do what it takes to reopen his shop.

“We kind of go with the punches like everybody else,” he said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry. We’re not mad, it is what it is.”

Some guidelines in the document include workers must wear a face covering throughout the entire interaction with the customer. Customers must wear face coverings during the entirety of the tattooing or piercing service.

The state recommends to suspend piercing and tattooing services for the mouth and nose area. Chairs should be arranged to ensure at least six feet of space between customers and establishments should consider additional divider shields or other impermeable barriers where appropriate.

Shops should also provide temperature or symptom screenings for all employees at the beginning of their shift. Screenings should be available to any vendors, contractors or other workers as well before entering the establishment.

Ruby Zaragoza was one of the first clients to get body artwork done at Faultline Tattoo in Hollister on Friday. 

Prior to entering the tattoo shop she realized she forgot her mask and she had to go back to grab it. 

But it wasn’t a big deal as Zaragoza was still able to get her tattoo of two butterflies that she said was an idea that recently came to mind after the shops closed for business due to shelter-in-place orders.

“It kind of came out of the blue,” she said. “

It’s been a little more than a year since the 26-year old Hollister native got a tattoo. 

“It’s nice to be here and get [the tattoo] done,” Zaragoza said. “It also feels nice to spend money in a local business as opposed to going to Target.” 

Roger Melendrez, a tattoo artist at Faultline Tattoo located at 208 Fifth Street, said he was relieved to get back into action after three months of having the shop closed. 

“It feels like a new job,” he said. “Like I almost forgot how to do it.”

Melendrez said he was taking in clients but he was only available for small size body art that includes familiar patterns such as butterflies, flowers and names.  

Zaragoza said she handled the shelter-in-place order pretty well, especially because she likes to spend a lot of time at home. 

“I was working from home but limited hours,” she said. “I was able to sleep in, workout from home, do work and just enjoy the rest of the night. It’s been really easy for me.”

Gomez said he managed to stay busy while his shop stayed closed, including spending more time with his family. He said he also still had to pay rent and all other utilities but he said he was well prepared in case of an emergency.

“I was taught at a young age to always be prepared for a rainy day; my mom taught me well,” he said. “For that being said we have a little money put away for bills and stuff like that, just in case.”

Gomez said the only stressful part of having the shelter-in-place order was not being able to work. He said there’s always going to be that fear of someone coming into the shop who might be asymptomatic but he also mentioned there’s other things to be worried about too.

“Who knows, I might get robbed before I get the Covid,” he said. “I don’t know, anything can happen.”

However, Gomez said wearing the masks and following the social distancing procedures is just another precautionary measure they have to take. 

“You just go with what they tell us and be as careful as we can and go from there,” he said.