Zoning officials in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, Illinois, have shut down a woman’s eco-conscious tattoo parlor after determining that she didn’t meet the village’s voluminous requirements for opening a body art establishment.
The decision has forced Selena Carrion to walk away from a shop she’d sunk considerable time and money into right before her planned opening.
“I’m the first businessowner in my family,” she tells Reason. “It’s a lot to try and put this stuff all together all on my own, using my own savings, and then having to start all over.”
Carrion’s plan had been to combine her twin passions for animal welfare and body artistry into a new business venture: Venus Vegan Tattoos.
She’d long been interested in art and had used the pandemic to learn the particulars of tattooing with an eye toward opening her own business. She’d also become an active member of the Chicago area’s vegan scene, and had nursed the idea of opening a tattoo shop that used animal- and plastic-free inks.
In December 2021, her friend alerted Carrion to a newly vacant business suite in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park. In early 2022, she signed a lease for the space and set to work preparing it—painting, patching holes in the walls, retiling surfaces. Carrion estimates she spent $10,000 of her own money plus a $20,000 business loan getting everything ready. She also registered her business as a limited liability company and obtained a body art permit from the state.
Everything was all set for Venus Vegan’s grand opening. But in mid-April, shortly after Carrion hosted a launch party at her business, Orland Park officials slapped a notice on her door shutting her down.
Her lease explicitly said a tattoo parlor was allowed on-site, according to CBS News Chicago.
But in subsequent phone calls with town zoning officials, Carrion was told that her business was not in fact allowed in the property’s “Village Center District” zoning. Had she wanted to open a gym, day care, dry cleaner, or medical office, that would have been permissible. But not a tattoo shop.
That sent Carrion looking for alternative locations in Orland Park, which proved fruitless. Carrion said one property owner didn’t want to rent to a tattoo shop. One was outside of her price range. Another only rented to businesses with established locations.
Even if she’d found a suitable location and a person willing to lease to her in one of Orland Park’s two zoning districts where tattoo parlors are allowed, getting the special use permit from the village that’s required to legally open would have been a challenge.
A public information officer for the village told Reason in an email that getting this permit requires the applicant to submit a development petition which is then reviewed by planning staff before being forwarded to the planning commission which will hold a public hearing on the application. That’s followed by another public hearing before the Village Board. The board then would decide whether to pass an ordinance issuing the permit for the tattoo shop.
Carrion says village staff told her it would take at least three months to go through this entire process. Rather than go through all that time and effort, which came with no guarantee her business would be approved, Carrion had decided to move her business to less regulated Chicago.
In addition to the $30,000 she spent on fixing up her place, Carrion says she has also lost $20,000 worth of revenue from canceled appointments. She’s currently negotiating with her landlord about withdrawing from her lease.
“It was a lot of hurdles that were not allowing me here,” she says of Orland Park. “They were making it pretty much impossible to get a tattoo shop.”