WACO, TX — COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates were lifted in the state of Texas Wednesday.
Tattoo and piercing studio Infamous Ink took advantage of the lift, deciding to make masks optional.
Staff will continue to wear gloves, and clean surfaces between clients, as well as all other safety measures that have been industry standard well before the pandemic.
"I don't think now is the time to relax. Now is the time to just keep relevant of what we've gone through and stay appreciative for what we have," said Infamous Ink co-owner, Zac "Lefty" Colbert.
As shutdowns were lifted over the summer, there was a lot of backlash from the industry when businesses like movie theaters and hair salons were allowed to open but not tattoo or piercing shops.
That delay took a big hit on small business owners like Lefty as well as his staff.
Because his artists and piercers are independent contractors, they struggled with finding financial help. Some were forced to resign from their positions or move away from the area.
"They couldn't get unemployment. They'd applied and applied. Everyone was just kind of sitting around trying to figure out what to do," explained Chonna Colbert, co-owner at Infamous Ink
Last May, Infamous Ink joined a statewide protest to reopen despite shutdown orders, resulting in 14 citations before they were officially allowed to reopen.
"I think they need to look at what was going on at that time. The fact that other people were allowed to work, other people were deemed essential and allowed to feed their families. At the county court house, the backlog is tremendous. They're offering pretty good plea bargain deals just to get cases to move," said Cody Cleveland, attorney for Infamous Ink.
As Infamous Ink awaits their time in court, they're preparing for what may be a long legal battle.
"From what I've been told by the city prosecutor, there's 14 citations, and they're planning on trying each one one by one. So if we have to have 14 trials, then we're prepared to have 14 trials and we hope each time we have a jury of Zac's peers to come in and listen to the evidence," Cleveland said.