Zoning issue keeps Memphis business owner from including tattoos - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Zoning issue keeps Memphis business owner from including tattoos

(WMC-TV) - A Memphis business owner is fighting business association members who banned him from opening the kind of shop he wanted.

For the past 10 years, urban planners have been trying to breathe new life into Broad Avenue following the construction of the Sam Cooper extension.  Local artist Babak Tabatabai found out the hard way that not every art from is included in that plan.

"They're awesome store fronts, all these buildings are over a hundred years old," said Tabatabai.

Tabatabai is eager to be part of the future of the historic Broad Avenue corridor with a shop specializing in various art forms, including tattoos.

"It's not just tattoos are just going to be a part of it, you know," said Tabatabai.  "I've done a bunch of freelance art."

Tabatabai got the go ahead from his landlord and spent a lot of money remodeling.

"I would say probably the $25,000 to $30,000 range," said Tabatabai.

He has since run into a roadblock.  The zoning code in the area does not allow tattoo parlors.

Tabatabai applied for a zoning variance from the city's adjustment board.

"It seemed completely logical that they would give me the variance because I can prove that I would be an asset to the street," he said.

The request was denied.  Business association members said they are not taking a stand on tattooing, but they do oppose changing the zoning.

"We're not saying we're against the tattoo parlor or the person, we want to understand what criteria do we use going forward so that we don't set a precedent that might hurt some other area of the city," said Pat Brown with the Historic Broad Business Association.

Tabatabai's clients think his ink and his intentions are a perfect fit for Broad Avenue.

"There will be no indication that this is a tattoo parlor or tattoo studio or that we do tattoos here," said Tabatabai.

"I think that if should fall under the exact same category, and it's right in line where they want Broad Street to go," said client Ashley Dilworth.

Tabatabai said he is not going anywhere.  His shop is scheduled to open in weeks, with or without tattoos.  He intends to appeal the adjustment board's denial of his request for a zone variance.

To see a petition to support rezoning, click here.

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