The owner of a tattoo parlor barred from setting up in a Los Angeles beachfront community is battling the ban in court, arguing it's a violation of free artistic speech. He lost the first round when a federal judge ruled tattooing was "not sufficiently imbued with elements of communication." But an upcoming appellate court hearing may well go his way, some experts believe, and could set an important precedent for tattoo parlors. John Anderson had planned to relocate his popular parlor from a "seedy" neighborhood to Hermosa Beach.
But parlors are banned throughout the beach community by zoning laws to protect public health safety and welfare. Experts believe the total ban on tattoo parlors will not survive a constitutional test, and that tattoos may be protected speech. "If it's art, it's art, and art gets protection," said UC Berkeley law professor and 1st Amendment expert Jesse Choper. Anderson believes the ban was enacted because of the community's fear that a parlor would attract "undesirables" like bikers and ex-cons. "But that's so outdated," he tells the Los Angeles Times. "Everybody gets tattoos these days."