When Lucky Sinakhom wanted to move his business from Sedona, AZ to St. Charles a couple of years ago, he said he got less than a warm reception.
“They were extremely rude,” said Lucky. “They said, ‘St. Charles will never accept your type of business.’ ”
Lucky, an O’Fallon native, owns and operates Lucky’s Tattoo Company on Campus Drive in an unincorporated pocket off West Clay in the St. Andrews area.
Tonight, the St. Charles City Council will discuss allowing tattoo and piercing shops in the city during a Tuesday work session. The council could vote on the tattoo issue during its Feb. 1 meeting.
Councilman Dave Beckering, Ward 7, said he’s not necessarily in favor of having tattoo businesses in St. Charles.
“But once I found out that they’re regulated by the state and they’re no longer the ‘dirty needle behind the curtain’ establishments anymore, I was okay with it,” Beckering said.
“I had my mind improved,” he said. “It’s not like it was 30 or 40 years ago.”
Tattoo and piercing businesses would not be allowed in the downtown historic district on Main Street, Beckering said. He expects the ordinance to be changed so that the businesses would be allowed in the rear of buildings that front on Main Street, he said.
Beckering said he recently went on a cruise and noticed more than half of the guests had tattoos, even people his age.
A property owner in his district, who has had a building go vacant for two years, brought the issue to his attention, Beckering said. He declined to name the owner or the business.
“I’m not doing it for one specific person or a building,” he said. “I don’t have a dog in this fight.”
However, cities do risk lawsuits if they don’t allow the businesses, he said.
Wentzville is the only city in St. Charles County that allows tattoo and piercing studios, although a couple shops have been grandfathered into other cities through annexation. Other shops are in unincorporated areas, such as Lucky's Tattoo.
But tattoos have definitely gone mainstream.
But Lucky said he was told his business would bring “the wrong kind of clients” to St. Charles.
“Our clients are teachers, paramedics, doctors, law enforcement, grandmas, grandpas,” Lucky said. He also gets many Lindenwood University students.
Lee Sinakhom, Lucky’s wife and piercer at Lucky’s Tattoo, said, “Our biggest, growing group of customers is the 50-year-old crowd.”
“It’s because their parents died,” Lucky added. “They can get a tattoo without their parents giving them trouble about it.”
Lucky said he ensures his shop is inviting to everyone. He has employees sign a drug-free agreement. His studio could easily be mistaken for a hair salon if not for the ink machines.
“We want a 50-year-old woman whose kid just graduated high school who wants to come in and be comfortable here,” he said.
Lucky said he’s happy that St. Charles will allow tattoo and piercing shops.
“I wish they were doing it for the right reason, because it’s a legitimate business, not because the friend of a councilman has an empty building,” he said.
Lucky said he does worry that when St. Charles lifts the ban, it might attract what he calls “craig’s list scratchers,” beginners who buy an inking machines on eBay and claim they can give the same service as an experienced tattoo artist.
He said he already does a big business in covering up other’s mistakes. But he worries word might spread that St. Charles tattoo shops are subpar.
Lucky said he’d rather have talented tattoo artists move to St. Charles.
“I’d rather have to step up my game than fight guilt by association,” he said.
But Lucky was rankled by the idea that tattoos had to be something many people have in order to gain acceptance.
“It’s sad when somebody has to look like you in order to be somebody,” Sinakhom said.