With Durham Region moving into the ‘red-control’ zone of provincial COVID control, most professions have had to find ways to stay safe and deal with increased restrictions.
Cashiers can stay behind plexiglass, retail salespeople can socially distance and journalists can even conduct interviews through zoom. But there is one profession that has had to go over-the-top with precautions: Tattoo artists.
Like all re-opening businesses, tattoo studios must submit a safety plan to the province to be allowed to re-open.
“We do have a big safety plan, and everyone here has a copy of that,” says Hailey Greeley, receptionist at Wild Ink Tattoo Studio, Oshawa.
She says the plan is very detailed and it outlines policies, procedures, and guidelines the business is implementing to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
“It is just to ensure all the workers are safe and our customers [are safe] and how to keep everything clean and just stay up to date with everything that is going on with COVID,” says Greeley.
Dan Vandikas, tattoo artist and owner of Black Heart Tattoos in Whitby says regular sanitization, cleanliness, use of gloves and practising safe hygiene has always been essential to run a tattoo studio.
But now, cleanliness is more important than ever.
“We have been wearing the protective masks through the whole day and doing a lot of hand washing, probably washing our hands, like literally like every half hour when we’re not actually tattooing,” says Vandikas. “We have been cleaning the doors, handles, cleaning down the debit terminal on our counter in between every client.”
Greeley says it comes down to being extra cautious and taking every precaution possible.
“We have to change out the garbage every time, after every customer is in instead of waiting until it gets full, they have to be changed more frequently,” she says.
“Walk-ins are a thing of the past,” says Justin Castaldo, manager, piercer and tattoo artist at Motor City Tattoo Studio, Oshawa. “Right now, it is by appointment only. No walk-ins are allowed and without an appointment you are not allowed into the studio.”
Before coming into the studio, clients must go through a virtual screening over the phone. Upon entry, the customer has to fill out a declaration form and have their temperature checked.
“Even if they don’t feel they have any kind of illnesses or anything like that,” says Vandikas.
Capacity of tattoo studios has been decreased to ensure social distancing. Bringing in buddies or family members to help you through the pain is not allowed anymore.
“Even if they have a child with them, they are unfortunately not allowed to bring them in,” says Greeley.
Vandikas says getting supplies is not as easy as before. He says he might have to increase the price of his tattoos because of the sharp increase in the price of supplies, including PPE and rubbing alcohol.
“A lot of the suppliers are taking advantage of businesses and products such as gloves are now triple the price they used to be,” he says. “We used to get alcohol for about $7 a litre. Now suppliers want about $40 for a litre.”
Despite the restrictions and hurdles, his business is doing surprisingly well. Vandikas says Black Heart Studio has been very busy since re-opening.
“Within about two weeks of opening up myself and the other artists were completely booked up a month straight through our Instagram,” says Vandikas.
They had to hire an extra artist to keep up with the demand.
“We were very shocked, and it’s been great for us,” he says.
Vandikas says people’s urge for getting inked increased after sitting at home for months in quarantine. Some wanted to lose the status of tattoo-virgin, some wanted a section added in and some wanted their half-done tattoos to be finished.
“I think the other part of it too was just a lot of people had money to burn because of the CERB (government) payments,” he says. He is surprised no one has come in asking for a COVID-themed tattoo.
On the other hand, some businesses are trying to attract customers back by offering incentive deals.
“We have been posting on our social media a lot to try and attract more clientele,” says Castaldo. “Some of us have done giveaways to attract more traffic.”
Castaldo also says no one has come in asking for a COVID-themed tattoo. He says some tattoo artists had a debate about it and the consensus was that they would not feel comfortable doing such a piece.
“Perhaps after the pandemic is over, we may get some but as of right now it is still a touchy subject for some people,” says Castaldo.
For Wild Ink, the initial closure of their studio was rough. They had to find new artists.
“We actually have all new artists now since COVID started, I guess it took a big hit on the artists that we had. None of them work for us anymore.”
Because of the rising number of cases in Durham Region and the fear of another lockdown, Greeley says they are not trying to book a lot of new customers. Instead, they are more focused on finishing the bookings they have currently.
“We are just going with the flow,” she says.