A good tattoo artist adheres to strict sanitation standards when drawing, whether it be a small flower on your calf or an intricate mural on your back.

That was true before 2020 and is so today, and that familiarity with cleanliness made it easy for local tattoo shops to adapt to COVID-19 guidelines.

“We’ve been doing a lot of these for awhile now,” said Aaron LeGore, owner of Calamity Jane’s Tattoo and Piercing, 803 North Ave. “A lot of the measures are common sense. Like, why hasn’t there been hand sanitizing stations in Walmart this whole time?”

When the pandemic first hit, local tattoo shop owners shut down for six weeks like other non-essential businesses.

But unlike many of her peers, Marci Uranker and her husband had just opened Empire Ink Palisade, 309 W. Eighth St., Unit 1, in January 2020.

Business hasn’t changed much for Empire Ink since there were no walk-in appointments before the pandemic. The shop is also five-star certified through the Mesa County Variance Protection Program, a collaboration between the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County Public Health. The five-star certification is meant to encourage and highlight businesses that go above and beyond when protecting people from COVID-19.

Thanks to that, the budding business has operated more comfortably during the holiday season, which is usually slow for the industry.

“You’re basically working on an open wound, so you have to be sanitary,” Uranker said. “The five-star certification offers peace of mind to the public.”

Static Ink Tattoo, 2964 Interstate 70 Business Loop, No. 5, is awaiting its five-star certification. Owner Chad Erman said that it’s going to be easy to meet standards because of a good relationship with Mesa County Public Health.

The health department has been helpful, but sanitation standards in general are second nature to many tattoo shop owners and artists, he said

“You’re introducing foreign substances into people’s bodies, so you have to be careful,” Erman said.

Other owners aren’t stressed trying to meet the standards, either.

LeGore has been the owner of Calamity Jane’s for eight years. The hardest part of the lockdown for him was the uncertainty of how long doors would be closed.

“We made some contingency plans as far out as two years,” LeGore said. “We use a lot of gloves and masks, so becoming a personal protective equipment retailer was on the table.”

Calamity Jane’s received its certification recently and, like Uranker said, cleaning procedures aren’t changing much.

Before receiving the certification, Calamity Jane’s already required masks and temperature checks. Employees regularly cleaned. The only difference now is that the shop keeps a sanitation log.

Clients have also been understanding of the health requirements, LeGore said. He’s had no horror story of a belligerent customer yelling at staff for requiring masks.

“People know getting a tattoo is a luxury. We’d be among the first to shut down if there was another lockdown,” LeGore said. “People see our rating, and they‘re just happy we’re open. They sympathize with small business owners and know we’re just doing our best. It’s a consolation to the stress and uncertainty.”