ILLINOIS REOPENS: At tattoo shops, it's all about sanitation
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ILLINOIS REOPENS: At tattoo shops, it's all about sanitation


Chelsea “Chewy” Frame straightened a chair in her Moline shop, The Happy Cat Tattoo, and as though it were second nature, immediately snagged a couple pumps of hand sanitizer.

Frame was preparing Friday to tattoo again for the first time in about two months. She was ensuring seats in the shop were at least 6 feet apart, signage with guideline reminders were posted, and hand sanitizer was at the ready.  

As Illinois moved to the "Recovery" phase of Governor J.B. Pritzker's plan to reopen the state on Friday, tattoo shops, salons and more began reopening their doors. And at tattoo shops such as The Happy Cat Tattoo and AF Studio, Moline, owners and artists were preparing to slowly but surely return to work.

“I do feel like it’s too soon, but being off and not getting any help yet financially has been a struggle,” Frame said.

Thankfully, appointment deposits, commissions, and with the help of Andrew Guy with Gnar City Custom Printing in Davenport, T-shirt sales have helped to tide the shop over.  

Like most tattoo shops, Happy Cat already adhered to strict guidelines for cleanliness, so adding a few others — such as face masks, no-touch thermometers, and requiring clients to attend sessions solo — wasn’t difficult. (A complete list of new shop guidelines is online at The shop already operates by appointment only, and Frame and the shop's other two artists also completed the Barbicide COVID-19 Certification Course for additional information and training on infection control.

“We’re basically right up there with a hospital as far as cleanliness,” Frame said. “We’re in regular contact with the health inspector, so, you know, we hear straight from him what we have to do, and then we also found the Illinois Phase 3 reopening guidelines for personal care services online.”

And she passed that diligence along to artist Aimee Ford, whose shop, AF Studio, is next door to Frame’s.

“I’ve always been very safe because I was taught to be safe, but now we’re just taking it up, like, 10 extra notches,” Ford said.

Frame was her mentor, she said, and with "Chewy, it was just all sanitation, all the time, because safety’s first.”

Ford is returning to tattooing “super slow,” she said, beginning Friday with a scorpion piece on her husband Josh’s stomach.

She added signage stating mask requirements, purchased a no-touch thermometer, and plans to only tattoo one person per day, maybe twice per week for now, she said.

“I’m doing stuff that is very small in small doses.”

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