Inked During COVID-19: Chicago’s Tattoo Parlors Reopen

For at least one Chicago tattoo parlor reopening amid the pandemic, staying sanitized and sterile is nothing new.

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Patrick Cornolo, co-owner of Speakeasy Custom Tattoos in the city’s Wicker Park neighborhood, said tattoo shops are cleaner than you might think.

“Most tattoo shops in general are cleaner than a lot of other places you might go to,” Cornolo said. “Which was another consideration when people were questioning on how long this was going to take and why we should be opened in that first phase.”

Chicago allowed tattoo parlors, along with hair and nail salons, to reopen, with some restrictions, on June 3 as part of phase three of the city’s reopening plan.

Speakeasy Custom Tattoos provides a venue and equipment for tattoo artists operating as independent contractors who set their own appointments.

Co-owner Kelly Cornolo, Patrick’s wife, said the shop never reuses equipment to protect against blood-borne diseases, like Hepatitis B, C and HIV.

“We’re already aware and have to assume that everybody has something that you could get,” Cornolo said. “So everything is disposable – all of our barriers, drape sheets and pillow cases, inks and needles – everything’s single-use and disposable.”

Jennifer Garcia’s tattoo of a dragon from 20 years ago is transformed into a portrait of Buddha by artist Patrick Cornolo, co-owner of Chicago’s Speakeasy Custom Tattoos, on June 22, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)Jennifer Garcia’s tattoo of a dragon from 20 years ago is transformed into a portrait of Buddha by artist Patrick Cornolo, co-owner of Chicago’s Speakeasy Custom Tattoos, on June 22, 2020. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

To protect against the spread of COVID-19, the shop requires customers to wear face masks, wash their hands upon entering and bring no extra guests with them. 

On Friday, Chicago will advance to phase 4 of its reopening plan, which will allow indoor dining, museums, movie theaters and other amenities to resume, with some restrictions in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmissions.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia


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