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Downtown Fort Walton Beach businesses
FORT WALTON BEACH -- Business owners in downtown Fort Walton Beach have been working for years to create a more upscale image.
Now the city is considering rules that would limit the number of tattoo parlors downtown.
If you took a walk down the main drag of Fort Walton Beach, starting a few blocks east at the Brooks Bridge, you'd pass four tattoo parlors.
And that building with the brown paper in the window, that's number five, getting ready to open.
Years ago, the city made tattoo parlors a "conditional use".
Owners like Jeff Bullard of Tattoos Forever had to jump through hoops to get them open.
"The thing that people fear about our industry is the bad rap that we got many years ago, and people looked at tattooing as a seedy type of profession, and it's just not that way anymore"
A couple of years ago, the city changed its code to make it more business friendly.
Along with the Downtown Merchants Association, they're trying to mold downtown into a family entertainment destination.
They thought the market would balance the types of businesses that moved in.
"You want your restaurants and your bars and you want your retail shops, then you want gift shops, and you know, tattoo parlors are completely fine, but you probably don't want too much of one thing"
Since appears the balance it tipping toward tattoos, city leaders are now proposing a 1500-foot buffer between tattoo shops.
"Broken down in its easiest form, that's great for me, I mean if it limits my competition, and that's more for me. On the other side of the coin, the citizen in me says it should be a free market"
The proposed rule would also apply to pawn shops, title loan businesses, psychics and sexually oriented businesses.
"I think they want to create an image that everybody feels welcome in"
Right now, none of those other businesses exist downtown, except a lingerie shop that's closing.
The local planning agency will hold a special meeting on the 20th to decide whether to recommend the new rules.