Since 1994, Body Piercing by Bink has been the place to go for body piercings done right. The first place in town to offer implant-quality body jewelry, we never wavered in our commitment to providing safe piercing experiences for every one of our clients. There are certain piercings we won’t do because they are not safe, like the one that goes horizontally through the tip of the tongue and comes with a high risk of gum erosion and dental damage. There are other piercings we caution against but will still perform if the client understands the risks and wishes to proceed, like getting a cartilage piercing on both ears at the same time. Our detailed disinfecting procedures between each client may have seemed excessive before COVID, but it’s just one of the ways we have continued to keep our environment clean and safe all these years.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as case numbers grew and medical professionals called for masks and social distancing, we struggled with the question, “what should we do?” At the end of March 2020, we decided the safest choice was for us to close our doors for a bit until this all blew over – after all, it’s awfully hard to do a piercing from six feet away.
But as it became clear that this wasn’t going to just blow over, and without any business or income, it didn’t make sense to keep paying rent for our unused space. We moved everything into storage and said goodbye to our old location on north Monroe street.
As the vaccines were rolled out and made more widely available, we dared to imagine a day we could safely return to piercing and decorating our community. By May, our entire staff received a full dose of an available vaccine. We started looking for a new place, and discussed new policies and procedures we would need to institute in order to keep ourselves and our clients safe. In June, we opened in our new location on McDaniel street with a few new rules: appointments are required for everything; masks are required for everyone; no more than one support person per appointment; and, under the mask services are only available to fully vaccinated clients who can provide proof of their vaccination status.
For the last three months, we have been able to operate safely within these parameters and have been delighted to be back in action doing what we love. With few exceptions, our clients have been grateful for, or at least understanding of, our new policies. Occasionally we have had to turn away someone who had made an appointment and was excited to get a new nose/tongue/lip piercing, but neglected to read the lines in our booking and consent forms that state “proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required.” These situations are uncomfortable and unpleasant for everyone - we really love piercing and really hate saying no! But with the safety of our staff, their families, our clients, and our communities in mind, we have pushed through that discomfort and upheld our policies. The fact that none of our staff has gotten sick, nor have any of our clients reported COVID-19 or other illness after visiting us, speaks to the efficacy – but not infallibility – of these policies.
Starting September 16, Governor DeSantis threatens Florida businesses with fines of up to $5000 per instance of asking for proof of vaccination. For a governor who has always claimed to be in support of small business, even announcing Florida to be “[re]open for business!” earlier than most other states last fall, this move is illogical at best. In public appearances DeSantis has reasoned that he’s trying to “protect individual freedoms, not corporate freedoms.” But small businesses like ours are made up of individuals; we serve individuals; and we have the right to refuse service to individuals as long as that refusal isn’t based on race, religion, sex, age, ability, or national origin. Pre-pandemic, it was widely considered legal and perfectly reasonable to refuse service to someone who threatens the health and safety of your workers or customers. Why should that be less true in a time of even greater risk?
As body piercers, we are constantly at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. OSHA has mandated that businesses with risk like ours should offer Hepatitis B vaccines to its employees. For veterinary technicians, the rabies pre-exposure vaccine and regular boosters are similarly required by OSHA. Schools, businesses, healthcare settings, and even the US military have been requiring vaccinations against the most prevalent vaccine-preventable diseases for over a century. The supreme court has ruled in multiple cases presented since 1922 that schools requiring vaccination are, in fact, constitutional, citing that one person’s rights do not include liberty to expose the community or child to communicable disease. As for anyone unwilling or unable to get the vaccine, their access to these communities was denied until infection rates slowed. For such deadly and devastating diseases as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitises A and B, pneumonia, meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and even chickenpox, we as a society have come to accept that vaccines are the most reliable and effective way to prevent infection and community spread.
But the topic of debate here is not whether vaccines are effective, nor whether everyone should be required to get one, it is simply whether or not individuals and their businesses should be allowed to ask for proof of vaccination before deciding to provide a service that could expose its workers and other customers to a communicable disease. With the many precedents for even more invasive requirements surrounding vaccines, and considering the rights of businesses that Governor Desantis himself has previously advocated for, it seems like it should be an easy call.
Unfortunately, Desantis’ executive order which goes into effect September 16th and imposes exorbitant fines creates a dilemma for businesses like ours. Once again we’re asking, what should we do? It isn’t in our best financial interest to withhold services from would-be paying customers, but we certainly can’t afford thousands of dollars a day in fines for maintaining our safety protocols. If the choice is between offering under-the-mask services to everyone, including unvaccinated clients, or offering those services to no one, the safer choice is obvious. Our commitment to safety has gotten us this far and we’re not about to sacrifice that now.
Starting September 16th, we will no longer offer nose, lip, or tongue piercings for any clients, regardless of vaccination status. For under-the-mask JEWELRY CHANGES (for existing piercings, whether they were done here or elsewhere), we are requiring proof of a negative COVID test result within three days of your appointment. If you are vaccinated and would like to show us proof, you may opt out of the testing requirement by doing so.
We sincerely hope that Governor DeSantis soon realizes the absurdity of this new rule and quickly retracts it. In any case, we anticipate that a discerning judge will soon declare Desantis’ order to be beyond his lawful powers as governor and we’ll be able to safely return to piercing your lovely faces!
322 McDaniel Street
Tallahassee, FL 32303
Monday - Saturday 11 am - 7 pm
The Association of Professional Piercers is a California-based, international non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination of vital health and safety information about body piercing to piercers, health care professionals, legislators, and the general public. You can locate members of the APP by using their handy searchable database.