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Barrie changes its tune on tattoo parlours

City Council will vote next week to lift minimum separation distances for tattoo parlours located in the downtown core.
Unique Ink recently moved to a location on Dunlop Street West. Robin MacLennan/BarrieToday

City Council will vote next week to lift minimum separation distances for tattoo parlours located in the downtown core.

If approved, this will reverse a 2020 decision to place restrictions on where tattoo parlours, pawn shops, body piercing parlours and payday loan establishments can locate in the downtown area.

Coun. Rose Romita encouraged councillors to lift the restrictions.

"Tattoos are a form of art," she said. "Who are we to say you csn’t use your body as a canvas," Romita said.

"It’s not just the poor person or the unsavoury person who has them. Every walk of life has tattoos and why are we saying we don’t want them downtown."

The official plan and zoning by-law were amended six years ago, to provide for a minimum separation distance of 50 metres for lots occupied by specified types of businesses. The regulation prohibits shops from locating within 50 metres of a lot with the same use in the downtown area.

At that time, separation distances were established "to avoid a concentration of uses which may detract from the city's efforts to revitalize the downtown," contract planner Ian Bender wrote in a report.

Distance restrictions will remain in place for pawn shops, piercing parlours and payday loan businesses.

“Many, many residents have contacted me. Every one of them has tattoos. It's a form of art,” she said. “Who are we to say you cannot use your body as a canvas.

“We don't have minimum distance separation for variety stores or flower shops.”

Barrie's Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw of 2011 requires a minimum 100-metre distance between tattoo parlours, body piercing parlours, pawn shops or payday loan establishments in the downtown.

Coun. Doug Shipley voted against the review.

“I have not received any calls in the last six years (on council) saying we need more tattoo parlours downtown,” he said.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said the minimum distance separation was put in place following 2008-2009, when approximately 30 of 120 downtown storefronts were empty.

But the downtown has rebounded since then.

“It is not a social commentary on tattoos,” he said of the separation distance, just a desire to prevent the clustering of businesses.

“Is it possible that it worked, because the bylaw with minimum distances has worked?” asked Coun. Michael Prowse. “It's a very good idea that has worked.”


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Robin MacLennan

About the Author: Robin MacLennan

Robin MacLennan has been a reporter, photographer and editor for the daily media in Barrie, across Simcoe County and Toronto for many years. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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