His dream was to open a vegan tattoo shop. Zoning officials arrested her.
Zoning officials in Orland Park, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, closed a woman’s eco-friendly tattoo parlor after determining it did not meet the village’s bulky requirements for opening a a body art establishment.
The decision forced Selena Carrion to walk away from a store she had invested a lot of time and money in just before its scheduled opening.
“I’m the first business owner in my family,” she says. Reason. “It’s a lot of trying to put it all together on my own, using my own savings, and then having to start all over again.”
Carrion’s plan was to combine her two passions for animal welfare and body art into a new venture: Venus Vegan Tattoos.
She had a long-standing interest in art and had used the pandemic to learn the details of tattooing with a view to opening her own business. She had also become an active member of the Chicago-area vegan scene and came up with the idea of opening a tattoo shop that used animal-free and plastic-free inks.
In December 2021, her friend alerted Carrion to a newly vacant professional suite in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park. In early 2022, she signed a lease for the space and got to work getting it ready – painting, patching holes in the walls, coating the surfaces. Carrion estimates she spent $10,000 of her own money plus a $20,000 business loan to set everything up. She also registered her business as a limited liability company and obtained a body art license from the state.
Everything was ready for the grand opening of Venus Vegan. But in mid-April, shortly after Carrion hosted a launch party at his business, Orland Park officials stuck a notice on his door shutting it.
His lease explicitly stated that a tattoo parlor was permitted on-site, according to CBS News Chicago.
But in subsequent phone calls with city zoning officials, Carrion learned that his business was in fact not permitted in the property’s “Village Center District” zoning. If she had wanted to open a gymnasium, a daycare, a dry cleaner or a doctor’s office, it would have been allowed. But not a tattoo shop.
This sent Carrion searching for alternate locations in Orland Park, which proved unsuccessful. Carrion said a landlord didn’t want to rent to a tattoo shop. One was out of its price range. Another was rented only to businesses with established locations.
Even though she had found a suitable location and someone willing to rent to her in one of Orland Park’s two zoning districts where tattoo parlors are permitted, obtaining the special use permit from the village that is required to open legally would have been a challenge.
A village public information officer said Reason in an email that obtaining this permit requires the applicant to submit a development petition which is then reviewed by planning staff before being forwarded to the planning commission who will hold a public hearing on the application. This is followed by another public hearing before the village council. The council would then decide whether or not to pass an ordinance issuing the license for the tattoo shop.
Carrion says village staff told him it would take at least three months to go through this whole process. Rather than go through all that time and effort, which was no guarantee that his business would be approved, Carrion had decided to move his business to less regulated Chicago.
In addition to the $30,000 she spent fixing her accommodation, Carrion says she also lost $20,000 in income due to canceled appointments. She is currently negotiating with her landlord to terminate her lease.
“There were a lot of obstacles that didn’t allow me to be here,” she says of Orland Park. “They made it virtually impossible to have a tattoo shop.”