Unfriendly attitudes toward tattoo shop complicating moving efforts, owners claim

ST. GEORGE – After six years in the Sunburst shopping center on 700 East, a tattoo shop, along with its neighboring businesses, have to relocate due to the center being sold off. However, the relocation process hasn’t gone well for the tattoo shop due to discrimination against the nature of the business itself, the shop owners claim.

Adam Roettger, owner of Vamp Tattoo, learned from his landlord in February that the shopping center had been sold. The shopping center is going to be demolished to make way for new student housing.

Adam Roettger, tattoo artist and one of the owners of the Vamp Body Art tattoo shop, shares his experience of trying to find a new home for his shop which has thus far been a frustrating endeavor due to rejections he claims are based on the nature of his business, St. George, Utah, May 25, 2017 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News

Since that time the Roettgers – Adam and his wife Melini – have been trying to find a new home for their business. They’ve also hired various real estate agents to help them find a suitable property.

One after another, offers made on potential spaces were rejected, Roettger said.

“So far, every place we’ve ran into or put a bid on, it’s the same thing,” he said.

Roettger said people have told him “We don’t want your kind here,” and “You’ll lower my property values,” and that even the name of his business was inappropriate.

“We keep getting turned down everywhere,” Roettger said.

“The thing is, when people think of a tattoo shop, you think of bikers and gangsters, and all of these (negative) things,” he said. “We’re a family-ran business.”

Local realtor Melinda Goodwin, who has been helping the Roettgers search for a new location, said she didn’t believe the shop owners’ claims of discrimination at first. That changed when she started looking at spaces for the tattoo shop and putting in offers for them.

“I found some people who just said, ‘No, we’re not renting to a tattoo parlor,” Goodwin said.

While property owners are perfectly within their rights to refuse renting out space if they so choose, Goodwin said she felt some of the rejection was based on antiquated attitudes toward tattoo shops.

I feel there are some people in town who are prejudging his (livelihood),” she said.

Though personal bias can come into play, some other reasons a property owner may reject a tenant’s application involve credit, the business’ history at a previous location, and whether or not the applying business is a good fit within the mix of businesses already there.

For the six years they have been at the Sunburst shopping center, the Roettgers have gotten along well with their neighbors and their landlord, Roettger said, adding his soon-to-be former landlord has offered to vouch for them if needed.

Vamp Tattoo storefront at the Sunburst shopping center on 700 East, St. George, Utah, May 25, 2017 | Photo by Mike Cole, St. George News

“There are those who are uncomfortable with (a tattoo shop) and essentially say ‘no,’” said Neil Walter, managing director of NAI Excel.

Other factors that have likely contributed to the Roettgers’ difficulties in relocating include the general availability of commercial space that is properly zoned for their business, as well as getting future neighbors to approve of their moving in.

There are only two types of zoning in which a tattoo shop can exist. One is manufacturing space, which is why you’ll see a tattoo shop or two in an industrial park, while the other zone type is a commercial designation known as “C-3.” A tattoo shop is a permitted use within this zone provided it gets a conditional-use permit from the city.

“There are a number of locations a tattoo establishment could locate,” said Marc Mortensen, the Support Services director for St. George. “…Those zones are typically along major arterial streets through St. George,” he said.

While there is C-3 zoning along the city’s main roadways, spaces that are available are already being sought after by various businesses. This includes businesses from the soon-to-be demolished Sunburst shopping center, as well as those displaced by the incoming expansion of Bluff Street.

As many as 30 businesses or more are competing for commercial space, Goodwin said. Moreover, there aren’t any new commercially-zoned areas in the city replacing what is being lost.

Marc Mortensen, support services director for the City of St George, points out the areas on the city map where a tattoo shop is permitted, St. George, Utah, May 25, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We’re taking away, but not increasing or adding” that commercial space, Goodwin said. The spaces that do become available are seemingly filled as soon as they hit the market, she said.

Another issue facing Vamp Tattoo is a lack of acceptance toward tattoo shops by some businesses already established in commercial centers and areas the Roettgers have looked into.

“If you are a tenant at a property, you care who your co-tenants are,” Walter said.

Preexisting tenants, such as national franchises, may have lease agreements with property owners to outline the types of businesses that can be near them. The property owner may be more than happy to rent out a vacant space, yet is prohibited from doing so due to a leasing agreement.

Unfortunately for the tattoo shop, that’s one of the uses that is commonly excluded and prohibited,” Walter said.

Roettger and Goodwin said this happened with one property on Main Street. The property owner was willing to rent out a space that has long been vacant, yet was shot down by the much larger tenant next door.

There are many factors involved in the tattoo shop’s not being able to readily find a desirable spot in St. George, Walter said, adding that the process and questions raised in situations like this aren’t entirely unique – they just tend to get overlooked by the general public.

The Roettgers have found a potential location in Santa Clara and have been allowed to keep Vamp Tattoo at the Sunburst shopping center till the end of June.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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  • WanderingChere May 27, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    I wonder if any of these property owners are actually aware of the kind of people that get tattoos. We clearly have disposable income to spend. And that means we are gainfully employed members of society. Some of us even go to your Mormon church (you just don’t see our tats displayed there). Did I mention we have extra money to spend at surrounding businesses? Eh. Your loss. Someone will give these people a good home and reap the monetary benefits.

  • ScanMeister May 27, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    These are some great guys and I hope they find a new location soon. Artist’s of body art!

  • NickDanger May 27, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I don’t get it. Is the implication here that it is NOT okay to not want a tattoo parlor in your area? Because of course it is okay. Yes, tattoos make people uncomfortable. For many of those who get them, that’s the entire point of getting them – to make people think they’re tough, rebellious, etc.

    The reason tattoos give that impression to people is because they used to be confined to a very marginal segment of society – ex-cons, sailors, bikers, and the like. Now they’re more common, but the intent and the effect are the same. If I see a guy covered in tattoos, I immediately know two things about the guy – 1. He is insecure enough in his identity that he feels he needs to establish some part of it with permanent body art; and 2. He wants me to think he’s a tough guy. Maybe he actually is a tough guy. So…what?

    I guess one counter-argument would be, “Well, some people just like tattoos.” Sure, why not. But most people don’t, and those who “just like them” are well-aware of the effect they are portraying to other people.

    I personally would never rent to a tattoo parlor, any more than I would rent to a bar or an urban clothing shop. As a property owner, it should be, and in fact IS, my right to rent to whomever I please, without hearing a bunch of whining about it in the local newspaper.

    • Mike P. May 28, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Nick, I presume your prejudices have served you well. Most of us have moved out of the 1950’s and enjoy life.

      • ladybugavenger May 29, 2017 at 2:41 pm

        Are tattoos on the face being accepted as normal these days? Maybe I’m stuck in the 80’s so enlighten me if I’m suppose to not call the person with a demon tattoo on their face and head an idiot.

    • comments May 28, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Very well said nick. Enough tattoos is as good as having a big label that say “i’m an idiot”.

    • Chuck May 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      I am a proud U.S. Navy veteran and I ride a Harley Davidson. What do you have against sailors and bikers and the like, Nick? Do you like the freedom that you have to make such a stupid statement? Give me a break and give these guys a break too!

      • comments May 28, 2017 at 1:51 pm

        I hope ur not one of those HD guys that rides with a straight pipe. I love motorcyclists (i used to ride), but when one of these straight pipe HD idiots blows by me and my window is open, I’ll admit, I’m not gonna feel bad if they become roadkill.

    • Navyvet May 28, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Maybe you should think for yourself instead of listening to Fox news or your church to tell you what to do. I feel sorry for you and your family that you are so closed minded. One day soon people like you will only be faint memory to the world.

    • theone May 30, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Dear Nick,

      If we , the public never see another bigoted, delusional, incompetent, and out right unsubstantiated analogy of tattoos from you agaign, the worl will be better for it.
      Crawl back from which you came simpleton.

      • theone May 30, 2017 at 10:15 am

        here’s the D I somehow left behind. lol

  • Craig May 27, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I would assume property owners can rent to whomever they choose.

  • mmsandie May 27, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I hope it’s not near Caesars pizza. Or subway.. The other issue is limited parking when people have a tatoo its not 5 mins. And they take up parking spaces.. Like the one near garden buffet. They have limited parking because of the tatoo parlor.. The tatoo parlor on bluff st. I wouldn,t go near..

  • desertgirl May 27, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Not only the stigma of just being a tattoo parlor, also, the Mormon religion running the state hates tattoos, alcohol and bars, pretty much any activity adults enjoy, including a healthy cup of joe and medical marijuana which would benefit many.

  • youcandoit May 27, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    We welcome you on my side of town. But of course I’m not Mormon remember folks only God judges.

  • old school May 28, 2017 at 10:18 am

    The property was sold, then scheduled for demolition? A similar instance happened in northern Utah where a low budget hotel near the Ogden temple was bought and then demolished putting a lot of needy families out on the street. Can’t say who was behind it tthough.

  • bigjohn6t9 May 28, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Eat drink and be merry because tomorrow you may be in Utah!!! Why are people so precious with other people and other beliefs?
    Tattooing is not a sin and neither is drinking alcohol and cigarettes . But if you do any of these three things you’re treated as a leper.

    • ladybugavenger May 29, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      My dad gave me a shirt that said that. I was 13. And what are the odds that I did end up living in Utah 10 years later…LMBO!

  • Real Life May 28, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Mormons are so tolerant of others.

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