Town approves tattoo parlor
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Friday, Feb. 14, 2014

Town approves tattoo parlor

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- COURTESY OF MAYOR JACK EDWARDS
Pineville Mayor Jack Edwards

In a tie vote decided by the mayor, Pineville officials voted Feb. 11 to allow a tattoo and piercing studio at Carolina Place Mall.

“If it’s the type of people that you’re worried about going there, then I would be one of those people,” said Mayor Jack Edwards, sharing that he has 14 tattoos, each of which “means something very special to me.”

Winston-Salem-based Déjà Vu Tattoo and Piercing wants to move into a 3,100-square-foot space on the upper level of the mall. The building’s current business district zoning had previously not allowed tattoo or piercing parlors.

Before it headed to town council, Planning Board members voted 3-1 during their January meeting to allow the tattoo studio at the mall.

Town council member David Phillips made a motion to approve the zoning amendment to allow the studio and council member Les Gladden also voted in support.

Council members Melissa Rogers Davis and Deborah Fowler voted against the motion.

Founded in 2011, Déjà Vu has seven locations, including those in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Greenville and Jacksonsville. The company also is building in Florida and South Carolina.

Mitchell Brown, owner and CEO of Déjà Vu, has said the franchise frequently locates in malls, in part because “buyers and clients are already in the buying frame of mind.”

It was Déjà Vu’s previous relationship with General Growth Properties that led the company to seek a spot in Pineville. General Growth Properties owns Carolina Place Mall.

The location also meant Déjà Vu would have access to Charlotte’s demographics, which Brown said are under-served by the tattoo and piercing industry.

The town council vote on Feb. 11 came after a lengthy and, at times, tense conversation among board members and the applicants, Brown and Michelle McMasters, who is Déjà Vu’s operations manager.

“Do you feel like you’re on shark tank?” Gladden asked.

For the moments leading up to the vote, it seemed like the vote might go either way.

Phillips said he was concerned about the possibility that the studio’s hours would extend past the mall’s, possibly “opening the door for other issues and possible crimes.”

He also said having a tattoo parlor in the mall would make it easier for people to make a spur-of-the-moment decision which they might later regret.

“We’re making it too easy for people to get what they want at that particular time,” said Phillips, who added that he got one tattoo years ago that today he regrets.

Rogers Davis said she worried about clientele receiving exotic piercings. But the applicant said those types of piercings are rare. And there will be privacy curtains, McMasters said.

Some officials asked Brown whether he’d consider locating in another part of town outside of the mall. Brown said his business model, which has traditionally been to in malls, would not survive.

Toward the end of the conversation, Phillips made a motion to approve the zoning, with a stipulation that the store would only operate during mall hours. He said the amendment would allow the store to be better monitored, but would also give them the opportunity to stay open late during certain times of year.

“We stick with the mall hours,” Brown said. “The mall is like Big Brother to us. We stick with what they say.”

With a 2-2 vote, the decision ultimately fell on Edwards.

“The perception of tattoo studios has changed so dramatically (over time),” said Edwards.

Arriero: 704-804-2637; On Twitter: @earriero

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