The Arizona Court of Appeals is weighing whether the Mesa City Council denied the constitutional rights of two tattoo artists by denying them an operating permit 2 1/2 years ago.
After several neighbors voiced concerns that the parlor would drag down the area’s quality of life, city officials refused to issue the tattoo artists an operating permit.
The tatoo artists then sued the city, arguing that the subjective permit process – under which city council is given wide discretion to approve or deny certain types of businesses – violated their right to free expression and is therefore unconstitutional.
The attorney for the owners of the tattoo parlor argued that getting a tattoo is like commissioning an artist to do a portrait — the only difference being that ”the medium that’s being used is not canvas but someone’s skin.”
The attorney representing Mesa said that the only thing being regulated is the business, not free speech, and that cities have the right to deny permission to all kinds of land uses if they generate traffic problems, lack sufficient infrastructure or would otherwise burden a neighborhood.
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