The owner of a tattoo parlor whose business application was denied by Mesa to open a shop has filed a civil lawsuit against the city.
The attorney for Ryan Coleman, owner of Angel Tattoo, filed the lawsuit on March 22 against the city, according to Maricopa County Superior Court records. Coleman wants to open a tattoo parlor near Dobson and Baseline roads in the Dobson Ranch neighborhood.
In the lawsuit, Coleman and his attorney contend that the city denied him the right to free speech and freedom of expression to open his body art business without any tangible proof that the shop would be detrimental to the neighborhood. Coleman’s attorney, Michael Kielsky, believes Coleman has a case against the city because his application was denied based on “a negative perception” about such establishments and no proof that tattoo businesses cause crime to increase and home values to drop, according to the lawsuit.
Coleman and his attorney filed a notice of claim against Mesa in September, a precursor of a lawsuit, but the city did not respond to the claim.
Coleman, who also operates Angel Tattoo in Nice, France with his wife, is seeking at least $69,800 plus interest for profits lost and the money they spent trying to open the business at 2051 S. Dobson Road. He also is asking for either the right to open the parlor, or an extra $25,000 plus interest, according to the lawsuit.
Kielsky also is relying on a recent court ruling in a case in which a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered Tempe to reinstate a couple’s tattoo studio permit. In that case, Judge Robert Oberbillig ruled that Tempe City Council’s decision to revoke the permit was arbitrary and lacked credible evidence that the business would have decreased the area’s property values.
In another case, Mesa City Council unanimously approved in 2006 a business permit for Damage Ink, a tattoo parlor at 2950 S. Alma School Road, despite arguments and objections regarding fears of a negative impact on property values and potential increases in crime. The city issued a permit for the shop despite the site and use not complying with the minimum distance requirement of 1,200 feet from the nearest school, according to the lawsuit.
However, Mesa Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, chairman of council’s public safety committee, said that compatibility and credibility issues came into play involving Coleman. His permit application was opposed by various groups, including the Dobson Ranch Homeowners Association.
Coleman, 35, an ex-con, rented store space at Baseline and Dobson and started remodeling the shop in the summer of 2008, but did not submit his request for a business permit until January, 2009, according to Kavanaugh.
The city rejected Coleman’s application in March 2009, according to Debbie Spinner, city attorney.
“We thought the shop was incompatible with nearby businesses and the neighborhood surroundings,” Kavanaugh said. “We also believe that he was operating the business without the permit. His MySpace Web site provided an address and phone number for the business and advertised that services were available. While he was in prison, he also was disciplined for giving an illegal tattoo, and although he promised not to do any in the shop, who’s to say that he would abide by that? Credibility is a fair factor in providing a business permit, and I still think the city’s decision to deny the permit is defendable.”
Coleman said being an former convict should have nothing to do with being issued a permit. He also said he never opened his business without a permit.
“I never opened the doors for business,” Coleman said. “I did turn the phone on and started to post on MySpace to let people know we would be open soon. I never thought that city would deny my right to work. I think the city knows they are violating my rights and are trying to make me look like the bad guy.”
Spinner said the city plans to respond to the lawsuit within the required 20 days after it is formally served with the suit.