Langley tattoo shop rules & Mission arcade limits under microscope

Municipalities reviewing archaic policies to potentially lift decades-old bans

If you’ve been tattooed in the Langley Township in the last 40 years, the business was likely operating illegally. Tattoo shops have been outlawed in the Township for decades, but council is now reviewing the policy to potentially lift the ban.

The traditional practice of tattoo design has evolved over the years. Tattooing has expanded and is the latest trend in the beauty industry with things like microbladed eyebrows. The wearing of tattoos has also been largely normalized—even Canada’s Prime Minister has a large tattoo.

In March, council began reviewing a decades-old bylaw that banned tattoo businesses from operating in the Township.

“The spirit of this one (proposal) is to allow tattoo shops in the Township of Langley to be put into suitable zoning locations and to bring the Township of Langley into this century,” Coun. Barb Martens said when the review was suggested.

The Township isn’t the only municipality reviewing its archaic rules. Mission is also reconsidering a decades-old policy that forbid students from entering an arcade or poll hall during school hours or on Sundays.

All but one Langley councillor supported review of the Township’s tattoo ban. Coun. Kim Richter said she wasn’t “sure there was a pressing need for this right now.”

“It's never been an issue for as long as I’ve been here,” Richter said.

But the ban has posed real-life problems before. A decade ago, the prohibition prevented at least one tattoo artist from moving their business to the Township.

In 2012, the owner of Pro Pain Ink spoke to council in an attempt to lift the tattoo ban so he could move his business from Surrey to Brookswood, a local newspaper reported.

“If I wanted to open a massage parlour and sell drug paraphernalia, I wouldn’t have a problem… it boggles my mind,” he said at the time.

Richter was a councillor when tattoo artist James Walther made his case to Township council to lift the ban.

“If the community is solidly behind this idea, I have no problem supporting it," she said during the council meeting, the local paper reported.

But 10 years later, the ban lives on.

But probably not for long.

Despite Richter’s recent opposition to review the ban the rest of council voted in favour of it in March. Council will vote on whether to update the policy at a Sept. 25 meeting.

The Township’s closest neighbour, Langley City, also recently changed its rules around the operation of tattoo shops, though it has decided to further restrict them.

Although tattoo shops have been permitted, the City updated its rules in 2020 to prevent tattoo shops, vape shops, and spas from operating within 400 metres of each other. The move was done after the City received a complaint from the Downtown Langley Business Association about the concentration of such businesses. The DLBA came back to council earlier this year with a similar request to limit where a “beauty and wellness center, personal health enhancement center, registered massage therapy clinic” could set up shop in the City.

The new changes will further limit just where new tattoo businesses can set up shop in the city.

Such business-specific restrictions aren’t unique to the Langleys. Abbotsford has banned exotic dancing for decades.

Meanwhile, Mission council recently voted to review regulations set around arcades and pool halls that barred students.

Currently, students aren’t permitted to enter an arcade or pool hall in Mission on any day other than Saturday or school holiday, except between 3 and 11pm.

“It’s very unusual,” staff said about the bylaw that was first drafted in the 1980s.

Council unanimously supported the plan to review the restrictions. Staff will return with a final report for council to consider changes to the ban at a future meeting.

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