Plans in the works for new Athol tattoo parlor

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 02-01-2023 4:43 PM

ATHOL – The town has been without a tattoo parlor since the last one closed its doors approximately a dozen years ago.

That could change over the next few months—perhaps sooner—if the plans of four Athol residents come to fruition.

Business owners Jacqui Ferguson and her sister-in-law Erica Ferguson met Tuesday afternoon with the town’s Board of Health, along with lead artist Jeff Riel and Jacqui’s husband James. While the business will eventually need a license from the board, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the best strategy for moving in that direction.

“We have an extensive tattoo reg that passed in 2001,” board member Joan Hamlett said. “We had one tattoo parlor and we have not had one since that one closed.”

Jacqui said the quartet had initially located a suitable storefront to occupy, but the owner ended up renting to someone else, due in part to questions over the ability of Riel to receive his license from the town. The group is actively looking for a new location in town.

“I was working in Orange. I wasn’t there for too long. Obviously, when you stop working in a town they revoke you license. So I stopped working there,” Riel told the board. “After awhile I got licensed in Fitchburg, so my current license I just got. I’m going to be working between Fight or Flight Tattoo (in Fitchburg) and also Seven Deadly Sins in Lynn. The Lynn license I don’t have quite yet, but I have to do an in-person CPR training for them. That will be done this week. I know the holdup with my license was that I only had the one from Orange and there was concern about whether or not I was qualified enough to be the head artist at the shop.

“So what’s the one thing you don’t have that’s on our list (of requirements)?” asked board Chair Marty Miarecki.

Riel said he’s worked in shops since 2008, but never completed a conventional apprenticeship.

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“That’s the holdup, the lack of an on-the-books apprenticeship,” he said.

Requirements for a completed apprenticeship include a log confirming 250 hours of experience, the one thing Riel said he lacks. He attempted to obtain copies of the tax forms he received while working for eight years at a shop in Nashua, N.H. – ostensibly to complete his apprenticeship – but the records only go back as far as 2016. Riel said the shop owner failed to keep the other records needed to illustrate that requirements of the apprenticeship had been fulfilled.

“The stumbling block here,” said board member Raenette Kramer, “is validating your apprenticeship. I don’t know if you can validate that with your employment in Fitchburg and Lynn…”

“I’m not an apprentice,” Riel interrupted, “I’m a licensed artist. You can’t go back from being a full-time artist.”

Hamlett said Riel just needed to show that he had completed 250 hours of work and could come back before the board then.

“We have to go by what our regs say,” Hamlett said. “I’m doubting your hours and I’m not doubting you’re qualified. But we have liability. If we couldn’t show your hours and something happens to somebody medically in your tattoo shop, we’d have liability.”

Riel agreed to fill out a log memorializing the completion of 250 hours of experience which he would then bring back to the board when the time comes to seek a license for him and the business.

“We would be excited to see a business,” said Hamlett. “I’ll tell you, people get pushed into a black market and they do them in garages and they do them in homes. We would rather be up front and support something. This is not about us trying to prevent you from opening, it’s about health. As long as you do those 250 hours, you’re good with us.”

After Riel and the Fergusons left, board members determined it was time to reexamine the towns regulations governing tattoo shops as they relate to both requirements and application fees.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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