SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Forever Ink, located on South Plainfield Avenue, is currently appealing the license fee set forth by the borough. Currently, the cost to operate a tattoo parlor and body piercing business in South Plainfield is $4,000/year with the same license fee also imposed on massage parlors.
Established in Somerset in 2005 as Inksanity and owned by South Plainfield resident Susan Zrinko, Forever Ink relocated to the borough in late 2015. Back then, manager Paul Messina, also of South Plainfield, said he personally stopped by borough hall and inquired about the license fee with someone in the health department.
“They told me they weren’t sure and asked what I was paying in Somerset,” said Messina, adding that the fee in Franklin Township, which was not transferable, was between $200 and $400 a year. “I was told ‘I don't see it being much more than that here’ and that was it.”
Moving forward, renovations were made to the store but when the borough’s health department came to inspect, Messina said inspector John Obryk informed him a $4,000 license fee was required. “We were allowed to open to open but was told we had to petition the board regarding the fee, and did. I attended a council meeting [in early 2016] and approached the mayor and was told it would be looked into,” said Messina.
TAPinto South Plainfield’s requests for comment from Obryk regarding this pending issue were declined.
According to the tattoo parlor’s manager, after a few months passed without hearing again, he once again went before the council. Again, said Messina, he was reassured by Mayor Matt Anesh that someone would get back to him.
“No one ever got back to us. Months went by and then one day the inspector came in with an order to shut us down if we didn't pay the $4,000,” said Messina. “I went to the bank, took $4,000 out of my savings account and paid it.”
In November, during the borough’s Zombie Walk, Messina said he saw the mayor and personally asked him what was going on and was once again assured by Anesh that the fee would be reduced over the next few weeks. By mid-December, Messina still hadn’t heard anything and personally went to borough hall to speak to Anesh. Not getting an answer that time, Messina again went before the borough council, inquiring publicaly during a Jan. 8 meeting.
“That time, I was told I would have an answer by the first week of February as to how much the license fee,” Messina said. “It is such a waiting game.”
As of press time, and in response to a request from Forever Ink, the current yearly fee imposed upon tattoo parlors in the borough is being reviewed by the council’s Health, Welfare & Environment Committee.
“The current fee of $4,000 per year has been in effect for some time and all fees are made known to new establishments prior to their opening in South Plainfield,” said Councilwoman Christine Faustini, a member of the aforementioned committee. “We have requested the health department schedule a meeting with South Plainfield's Health Advisory Committee by the end of January in order to review the fee assignment.”
Faustini added, “A recommendation regarding the fee amount will be made prior to fee due date of March 1.”
According to Messina, the tattoo parlor ‘draws a good crowd’ and, over the past year, no complaints have been rendered against the business. Additionally, he said, Forever Ink customers also frequent other South Plainfield Avenue businesses when they are in the area, eating at the restaurants across the street, buying candy next door, and shopping at the farmer’s market.
“The town has us lumped in the same category as massage parlors – ‘happy ending' places. That’s not right,” Messina said. “We don't want to be in that category and we want to pay what other businesses in the area are paying. That’s only fair.”
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