The owners of Division Street Tattoo Company are not allowed to open their parlor in the heart of Mt. Juliet because under the current zoning, tattoo parlors are categorized as "adult entertainment" and disallowed in their location at the corner of Division Street and North Mt. Juliet Road.
Their sign is already up on the second floor of a strip mall and they say they've already been approved by the state and Wilson County. Mt. Juliet's commercial zoning in this district has prevented them from opening their new parlor (they had one in Davidson County for years) and they said they don't understand.
Generally, most people think of adult entertainment like X-rated video stores or adult nightclubs and the Lannings don't understand how a tattoo parlor could be linked with them.
Mt. Juliet residents and business owners Michael and Hannah Lanning went before Mt. Juliet city commissioners to plead their case Monday night.
Last week Michael Lanning applied for a business license and said he was told it could not happen at their new location that's ready to open.
"No where in my time as being a tattoo artist has sex ever been a part of it," Michael Lanning told commissioners. "Why are we not classified in the same category as beauty shops which are regulated by the health department, which we are."
Tuesday morning, Jennifer Stewart, the City's zoning administrator, sent The Wilson Post a statement to clarify how this happened.
"In 2013 the Board of Commissioners passed an Ordinance that added the classification 'Tattoo and body piercing establishment' under the Activity Type 'Adult Entertainment Business.' That Activity Type is only permitted in the zoning classification Industrial General, as an overlay district," she said.
Stewart added, "The City only learned about this business late last week when the owner applied for a Business License and myself today, in which I contacted them immediately. There have been no approvals given by the city for this business. No permits were ever pulled for the new sign they installed, nor were building permits were ever pulled to cover the remodel of the existing space. Had they followed proper procedures by pulling the appropriate permits or at least contacting the Zoning Department they would have been informed sooner that the use was not allowed in their current zoning district."
Commissioners told the Lannings they could operate their parlor in Industrial Zoning, which is a few blocks away, but tucked in with industrial-type businesses.
"It's not a clean enough environment," Hannah Lanning responded and asked the commissioners to review the zoning. "It's not what you make it is, it's about community and about family," she said.
Commissioner Brian Abston said "Nobody thinks tattoo, and associates it with sex."
"No one looks at is as a sex shop," he said. "We have zoning in Mt. Juliet where it is allowed, but not in the area you want."
However, commissioners did indicate they would be willing to discuss the matter further with the Linings, but needed to continue on with their agenda that night.
Hannah Lanning went to social media to also plead her case and encourage posters to contact their commissioners.
"For those of you that know how far the industry has come you know how advanced art has become and that it is a family friendly industry regulated by the health department," she posted. "Over the past two weeks we have created a professional, clean, and inviting atmosphere. Mt Juliet is growing and the younger generations are moving in. We need to open our mindset that we have no intentions of opening a dirty or sex related business."
In an update, Hannah Lanning on social media, said she wanted to clarify there was "no building done on our part."
"Again, this issue is not about zoning, it is about the fact that the city is classifying us as an establishment related to sex," she said.