A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Hermosa Beach's ban on tattoo parlors violates the First Amendment, paving the way for such businesses to set up shop in town.
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco requires the city to overturn its ban and permit tattooing in areas zoned for business.
"The tattoo itself, the process of tattooing, and the business of tattooing are forms of pure expression fully protected by the First Amendment," wrote Judge Jay S. Bybee for the three-judge panel.
The panel decision is the highest court ruling to date that addresses tattooing and First Amendment protection.
In a statement released shortly after the ruling was announced, City Attorney Michael Jenkins said city leaders are "disappointed by the decision."
Johnny Anderson, 33, co-owner of Yer Cheat'n Heart Tattoo in Gardena, sued the City of Hermosa Beach after it repeatedly rejected his efforts to open a tattoo parlor in town.
City officials argued that Anderson's work does not rise to the level of art, and that he is simply "providing a service," according to court documents.
The city banned the practice on the grounds that tattooing is a risk to the public's safety and health, and that it creates "aesthetic concerns."
"City Council places a priority on protecting the public's health and safety, and it adopted this ordinance because of the potential health hazards caused by unsanitary tattoo practices," Jenkins said.
The court acknowledged the health concerns and suggested that they be addressed through regulations to ensure sanitation.
"We disagree with the basic premise underlying the conclusions of both the City and the lower courts that have considered this issue," Bybee wrote.
"[The city] thinks it's going to attract the wrong element into their city, the undesirables," Anderson told Patch in May. "Tattoos are not just for sailors and fallen women. The class of people they're worried about can't afford the going rate."
Jenkins said that the City Council will review the Court of Appeals ruling at an upcoming meeting and determine its next course of action.
Related: Tattoo Artist Sues to Open Hermosa Shop