Judge denies bid to quash Governor’s tattoo shop closure order

A federal judge on Wednesday, Dec. 23 denied a bid by attorneys for tattoo parlors in Torrance and Long Beach to quash Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus-related regional stay-at-home order.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, alleges that the stay-at-home order infringes on the First Amendment free speech rights of tattoo artists and their clients. Plaintiffs also contend that the closure is arbitrary and unfair because tattoo parlors pose less risk than other businesses, and are already subject to strict health oversight by the city and state.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer wrote that the stay-at-home order “does not single out those engaged in expressive activity. Singling out by definition would require tattoo parlors to be treated uniquely from all other types of businesses or to bear disproportionately the burden of the restriction.”

Fischer said the order treats all personal care services — along with recreational facilities, hair salons, bars and amusement parks — the same way.

“None of these other types of businesses are engaged in protected expressive activity,” the judge wrote.

The suit, filed in September, names Newsom, Health Secretary Mark Ghaly and acting state Public Health Officer Erica Pan as defendants.

Plaintiffs include Tiffany Garcia, owner of Black Crow Tattoo in Torrance, and Tom Moser, who owns Port City Tattoo in Long Beach, along with shops in Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.

In her order, Fischer included comments from Dr. James Watt, chief of the division of communicable disease control with the California Department of Public Health, who described the risks associated with tattoo parlors.

“Tattoo services, and other personal care services, in comparison to retail businesses, present a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission due to the activities involving close physical proximity of longer duration in smaller airspace,” Watt said.

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