Zoning by-law prevents the opening of a new tattoo studio in Surrey

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Metro Vancouver tattoo artist who dreams of opening her own tattoo studio has her plans canceled as a bylaw keeps her newly renovated shop closed.

Disa Raven found a real estate agent and took a multi-year lease on a storefront in Clayton Heights in August. Over the past few months, she has spent tens of thousands of dollars renovating the space and upgrading power and water outlets to meet Fraser Health standards.

But zoning rules prevent it from welcoming clients. The City of Surrey told her they couldn’t get a business license even though the building is zoned for personal care businesses. Under Global Development Zone bylaw 17377, this is limited to hair salons, beauty salons, and clothing cleaning.

Raven didn’t know when she signed the lease, and apparently neither her real estate agent nor the landlord.

Now she is facing the abandonment of the store she has worked so hard for because she cannot afford to continue paying rent without taking customers.

The interior of Disa Raven’s tattoo studio in Surrey. (Submitted)

“I did all the right things and made sure I did it right,” Raven told Daily Hive. “I just came to terms with the fact that I will never do art in the one place where it was my dream to do art.”

Since she is in debt for the $ 60,000 of renovations plus the cost of signing the lease, she doubts she has the emotional energy or the financial resources to move a studio to another location.

Raven’s predicament is a prime example of municipal bureaucracy stifling innovation and entrepreneurship in Surrey, Chamber of Commerce CEO Anita Huberman told Daily Hive.

“The City of Surrey should allow him to open the business at least for a period of transition,” said Huberman. “Until that is all sorted out, there has to be some kind of flexibility.”

Updating zoning rules for the modern economy and allowing them flexibility is key to allowing small businesses to survive in the city – especially after the devastating effects of the pandemic, Huberman said.

“These little wrinkles mean that businesses can’t get started. This means a loss of jobs and a loss of economic dollars reinvested in our city. “

Raven will need to ask the city to expand zoning rules to allow tattoo shops in the area, and the issue will need to be approved in a vote by city council. She is worried about how long the process might take, whether the board will approve it, and is wary of the additional costs involved. She paid her rent for December but must send a decision to her landlord before January.

A spokesperson for the bylaws department said staff had offered to speed up the process so that the Raven case could be heard by council soon, recognizing the urgency of the situation.

According to the City, staff are awaiting a response from Raven.

“I hope she will follow up with our staff and that council will then have the opportunity to vote on this as soon as possible,” City Councilor Laurie Guerra told Daily Hive.

The studio would highlight the artistic side of the tattoo

raven tattoos

Disa Raven mainly does large black and gray tattoos with a realistic style. (Submitted)

As a 24-year-old female artist from a male-dominated industry, Raven is poised to change perceptions about tattooing – and she’s hoping her shop can be one of them.

For the past three years she has operated a tattoo studio in Pitt Meadows with an all-female staff, and she had two artists on board to work with her at the studio in Surrey. But with the uncertainty surrounding the opening, the two left to work in other stores.

Raven takes pride in her ability to make a tattoo parlor clean, inviting, and even pretty – to help people see tattoos as works of art.

She was inspired by her love for Greek mythology when designing the Surrey store and hired painters for the walls and ceilings so that customers had something to look at while they were seated in the chair.

“I just wanted to be like the feeling you get when you travel. Like, fuck it, I’m not even in Surrey anymore, ”Raven said. “I wanted to create an art gallery… I wanted to create the greatest experience to honor the client for choosing me.”

Raven has asked people who support her shop to write letters to city councilors or email her directly at [email protected]

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