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Charles County business owner considers defying stay-at-home order

Tattoo artist Jason Auth said he faces going out of business under almost any circumstance, so he is considering taking his chances with defiance.

WHITE PLAINS, Md. — There are signs that resistance against restrictions on businesses in Maryland are moving from protest to open defiance.

In Charles County, the owner of Its All About The Ink, a tattoo shop in White Plains, said he may open regardless of the county's decision to stay closed until at least May 29.

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Statewide restrictions ban tattoo shops from reopening under Gov. Larry Hogan's Phase 1 plan that took effect Friday evening.

Tattoo artist Jason Auth said he faces going out of business under almost any circumstance, so he is considering taking his chances with defiance.

"I hope I can keep my shop open, but at this point, it doesn’t really look like that’s going to happen and 30 years of my life will be gone," Auth said as he choked back tears. "So at this point, I feel like I have no other choice, because if I open, what are they going to do? Take my shop? If I don’t open I’m going to lose my shop." 

Auth said he doesn't want to be a martyr to the reopening cause. In a post to the Reopen Maryland Facebook Group, he said he is seeking a lawyer and advice on fighting back legally before making a final decision. His post struck a nerve for defiance. 

One supporter wrote: "Every small business just needs to open up. They can't do anything about it if we all do it together."

Auth said he shut down in March, even before he was ordered to, and pulled his kids out of school over coronavirus concerns. But after seven weeks of shutdown in Maryland, he has become a protestor and believes people have had time to inform themselves and make their own decisions about risk and personal behavior.

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"I'm not dragging anybody in my shop forcing them to get a tattoo or body piercing," Auth said. "They're coming here on their own free will. They’re aware what’s going on. And if they are scared they can stay away." 

Auth believes his normal infection control protocols at the tattoo parlor make it safe. 

If Auth opens and sheriff's deputies are called to investigate, they would ask for voluntary compliance, according to Diane Richardson, the spokesperson for the Charles County Sheriff's Department. If he declined to close, the case would be referred to the Charles County State's Attorney, Richardson said. 

She added that no one in the county has been charged for violations of the governor's orders since the crisis began. Officers responding to calls have been successful in educating the public and getting voluntary compliance, Richardson said.

Maryland State Police reported 116 people have been arrested or charged for violations since March 29.   

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In many circumstances, the charges have been filed after a person was accused of DUI or another traffic violation while engaging in non-essential travel, according to Greg Shipley of the Maryland State Police.

"The governor’s Executive Order made clear local jurisdictions could make their own decisions regarding lifting restrictions," Shipley wrote in an email to WUSA9. "Enforcement in those jurisdictions not in Phase 1 is ‘predominately’ addressed by local law enforcement, due to the roles of county law enforcement in those areas. However, throughout Maryland, we will continue to work with the local health officer regarding local issues/incidents, if we become involved. We will continue to consult with the state’s attorney in each jurisdiction before anyone is charged. We continue to hope for voluntary compliance and are doing all we can to encourage that." 

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