Tattoos in Arcata Plaza

By Sydney Alexandra Morrone
Flapjack Chronicle

In August of this year, the clothing store DTA (located on H St between 10 and 11th streets) split their floor space in half, and rented it out to some local tattoo artists. Previously working at Old Growth Tattoo in Eureka, these artists took a step to create a name for themselves. At the beginning of November, the new location was shut down.
The shutdown occurred for one reason. The city of Arcata has a regulation, part of 2-10 LUC, which states “services that may tend to have a blighting and/or deteriorating effect upon surrounding areas and which may need to be dispersed to minimize their adverse impacts.” The regulation includes examples such as check cashing stores, fortune tellers, palm and card readers, pawn shops, psychics, spas and hot tubs for hourly rental, and finally, tattoo and body piercing services.
The regulation specifically states that businesses such as these must be located a specific amount of feet from the Plaza square.
Arcata resident Laura Nash spoke about the perceived intentions she feels the plaza has, being a staple location for the community.
“It seems like the plaza is being designated for people passing through and visiting the students,” Nash said. “That’s why there are only restaurants, hotels and shops. The bars are taking up a quarter of the plaza, and they primarily bring trouble to the center of town. The cops have to watch over that area specifically, which causes trouble in the center of the community unlike a spa or a hot tub rental would.”
Nash also commented on the fact that there are people, especially travelers, who try to read fortunes, palms and tarot cards regularly on the plaza.
“Those people aren’t being regulated either,” Nash stated.
Body modification has become highly popular with young adults. It is more and more common to see people covered in tattoos and body piercings when walking down the street. It’s no secret to the residents that Arcata, Calif. is a community of which that is very open to all people and their self-expression.
Even though the residents of Arcata are aware of what is considered to be a “lifestyle,” if you look around the main part of town, the Arcata Plaza, there are no shops of this type anywhere to be seen. However, throughout the rest of Arcata there is a small abundance of tattoo parlors, as well as a couple piercing shops.
There is a connotation about tattoos, especially for older generations. Many people believe that tattoos are for gang members, prisoners or people of an alternative lifestyle. According to, 14 percent of Americans or 45 million, all ages included, have at least one tattoo. That is a large portion of the American community.
Student Lucy Chernow doesn’t have any body art, but does not have any opposition to tattoo parlors on the plaza.
“I don’t think having tattoo parlors on or near the plaza are any worse than having smoke shops,” Chernow said. “A business is a business, it stimulates the economy.”
The laws about the bars being on Arcata plaza date back to the late 1800s, created so that fights that broke out between drunken lumberjacks would be easily managed. The locations of the bars have not changed.
City Council member Alex Stillman believes that the location of the bars are the reason transients hang out in that area.
“I am not sure all of the hangers-on are transients,” Stillman said. “We have many folks who are on SSI or remittance folks (parents send them money each month).”


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