OUR OPINION: Jefferson City Council faces conundrum on commerce downtown

Jefferson City Council members are wringing their hands about how tattoo parlors may affect a fragile downtown.

Speculation abounds, but speculation does not create a solid basis for action.

Mayor John Landwehr described the downtown as “fragile” during discussions in October about the city’s role in regulating tattoo parlors.

In a November news story, he elaborated on that characterization, noting the downtown’s proximity to the Capitol complex and historic landmarks, as well as the nationwide drain on commercial enterprises from downtown areas.

The downtown’s fragility has prompted the mayor to suggest limits on the number of tattoo parlors permitted downtown. Currently, two of the four tattoo parlors in the community are located downtown.

Council members, however, justifiably are confounded by the commerce conundrum — manifested by efforts both to attract and limit businesses.

Downtown supporters must reconcile conflicting efforts to fill vacant storefronts with proposed restrictions on types of tenants.

Complicating the puzzle is an area Chamber of Commerce initiative to attract more young people to the community, coupled with the concept of loft apartments above downtown storefronts to synthesize residential and commercial vibrancy.

In November, the mayor said: “I don’t think people want to live next to tattoo parlors.”

The case can be made, however, that they don’t want to live among vacant buildings, either.

Another consideration is whether the number of tattoo parlors — or many other businesses, for that matter — should be subject to the laws of government or of supply-anddemand.

Does the demand for tattoos exceed the number of suppliers in the area or, more specifically, downtown?

Or is the concern that the downtown will become a magnet for tattoo parlors, bars and other venues that, in large numbers, may be perceived as detrimental in a fragile environment?

A downtown is a unique amalgamation of independent businesses. In Jefferson City, they co-exist in the only zoning designated as C3 for the Central Commercial District.

Perhaps the discussion of tattoo parlors will serve as a springboard for municipal, chamber, business and community leaders to pursue a unified vision for what our downtown can and should become.

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