Is South Bend’s downtown too upscale for a tattoo parlor?
“While we support the growth of small business, we also recommend that it be done with common sense,” said Ingrid Mathias with 1st Source Bank.
She was speaking about a proposal to add tattooing and piercing services at a functioning art gallery, known as the Bicycle Gallery at 127 W. Washington.
“Surrounding this proposed business, as many of you know, is flanked by two major bank headquarters which we all know and we may never change is very traditional and very conservative in our culture,” said Mathias. “Zoning approved for a central business district should allow businesses that complement each other and serve the major surrounding businesses that are already down here.”
The proposed parlor is two doors down from the Chase Tower, and across the street from the corporate headquarters of Teachers Credit Union.
“But I look at the elements that are before us right now, we have a high vacancy rate in the downtown area,” said South Bend Common Councilman Henry Davis, Jr. “The Chase Tower is in limbo, the College Football Hall of Fame is leaving, it’s gone, and we have so many other issues with small business downtown, so we have to make sure we create a happy atmosphere, a business friendly atmosphere and not be scared to take chances.”
The comments came as the process of considering a zoning change needed to clear a path for the proposed parlor began today before the Area Board of Zoning Appeals.
Ingrid Mathias urged board members to “do what is right for the central business district of South Bend and not jeopardize the businesses that are already here, and their perception of downtown or drive out existing businesses that may be considering locating in downtown South Bend.”
In the end, the board voted unanimously, 7-0 to send the proposal on to the South Bend Common Council with a favorable recommendation. The council will have the final call on the fate of the project, probably at a meeting in January.
“A lot of artists fall into tattooing because it’s a readily available income while they still practice art on the side, and since you're getting artist tattooing instead of guys just picking up tattoo machines, the quality is higher because they are artists,” said Bicycle Gallery owner David Martin.
Martin said his business would offer tattoos Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., meaning the business would be closed on Sunday, and would be closed when the downtown bar crowds peaked.
“We cater to like a higher end, we cater to educating people that don’t know what tattooing is,” said Martin.
The Board of Zoning Appeals also considered a proposed tattoo parlor at 1107 Mishawaka Avenue, but unanimously voted to give that project an unfavorable recommendation.
While both proposals called for combination art gallery/ tattoo parlors, the Washington Street project drew favorable comments from a half dozen community residents, while the Mishawaka Avenue project drew comments from opponents only.