Tattoo Parlors are Businesses Too!


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Many business owners have a habit of getting caught up in the “art” of their businesses and putting to the side the often unpleasant legal and business affairs. Tattoo parlors are no exception, for the owners are true “artists”, and “artists” sometimes forget that if the business is to take care of them, they must take care of the business.

Business Leases
Very few of us are fortunate enough to own our own buildings. Most tattoo shop owners rent their space from landlords. Renting a business location carries with it very significant concerns.

You must pay attention to the details and know what you are getting into so that you can run your business as a profitable enterprise. When renting space for your tattoo parlor, pay attention to the following:

  • Will the municipality allow you to operate a tattoo parlor in that location? You should always check with the local building department before signing the lease. Many towns and counties have strict zoning law limits on where tattoo parlors can be located.

    Just because the landlord may allow you to sign the lease does not mean that you can legally operate your business there. This may be even more of an issue for parlors that do piercings.

  • Are you required to obtain any permits to operate the parlor? Each municipality has its own requirements. You should make sure that the lease is contingent upon you obtaining both confirmation of no zoning restrictions, as discussed earlier, as well as receipt of all required permits to operate your parlor. It would be a shame to spend money and time pursuing a location that is not legal for your business. (Hint: do NOT rely upon what the brokers may tell you. Confirm all specifics for yourself!)
  • Many leases require the tenants to pay all or part of the real estate taxes that affect the premises.

    Confirm for yourself what the taxes are and verify that there are no increases on the horizon. You are in business to make money. If you cannot get a handle on what your operating costs will be before you open for business, you are doomed to uncertainty and all the perils associated with not knowing what your business operating expenses are.

  • Many landlords pass on to tenants the costs of operating the overall center where the space is located.

    These fees are called “common charges” or “common area maintenance”. They cover snowplowing, cleaning parking lots, lighting for common areas, security, and the like. (This is typical in strip malls and shopping centers).

    Just as taxes must be verified, so too must common charges. Get copies of all bills for your space from the past several years to see how the landlord bills, what he bills for and what you can expect your expenses to be. Also, see if the landlord will cap increases on common charges at the same rate that your rent will be increasing (i. e. , if rent increases 3%/year, then common charges should be capped at that rate too).

  • Insist that the landlord give you an “exclusive” clause in the lease.

    You would not want to open for business only to find out that the landlord just rented the adjacent space to another tattoo parlor!

  • Do you believe in yourself, your art and your business? Do you think you will succeed? If so, get an option to renew. Many leases are for five years or so. Five years goes by in the blink of an eye. Your customers will soon know you and your location. Relocating is costly, time consuming and detrimental to a business (in many cases). Take advantage of the landlord’s enthusiasm when you are signing a lease. And make sure that the rent for the renewal period is specified clearly

  • The moral of the story is that, just as with your artwork, it’s the details that count. Protect yourself and your tattoo business: Work with a qualified broker and real estate attorney, both of whom should know your business, its needs and what your goals are, so that you can focus on inking your customers.

    C. Lance Margolin, Esq. is an attorney practicing real estate and corporate law in Syosset, NY. He is also Senior Vice-President and Counsel of Biker Skin Care Products , a company that distributes specialized tattoo aftercare product lines and skin care products. This article is part of a continuing series to offer general legal advise to owners of tattoo parlors. It is only general advise and should not be construed as specific advise for any one person or company. Please check with your own attorney for legal advise specific to your needs.


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