Free Tattoos at Parties: This Is a Thing Now?

On Thursday night in Baltimore, Revolution Event Design and Production threw a Tattoos and Tassels-themed party to celebrate their rebranding. They took the first part of the theme very seriously: there was a real, live, free tattoo lounge at the event.

The tattoo bar was hosted by Have Fun Be Lucky (HFBL), a licensed tattoo parlor in Baltimore. At the beginning of the night, sign up sheets were available for attendees to grab a time slot for their tattoo with one of the three HFBL artists at the event. The party went from 6 to 10 PM, but by 7:30 PM, all the time slots were filled.

The party attendees were abuzz about the tattoo lounge–perhaps in part because tattoos can range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and at the event, HFBL was inking for free. The concept of a tattoo party at an event is not a novelty, however–HFBL has provided the service for a corporate event by Pabst Blue Ribbon in the past, and pop-up tattoo parlors have also been seen at events with ASOS and Red Bull.

“We were just looking to do something new and different,” says Danny Tippett, assistant producer at Revolution Event Design, who hosted the event. “Since it was a warehouse party it sort of made sense.”

For those concerned about the wisdom in having tattoo artists available at parties where alcohol is being consumed, HFBL owner Joe Lathe-Vitale ensures that every participant signs a consent form, shows ID–tattooing of minors without written consent from a parent or guardian is illegal–and isn’t inebriated. Lathe-Vitale says he turned down several individuals at the event on Thursday who wanted to get tattoos because he didn’t trust their judgement.

“If you’re inebriated, you’re not going to get tattooed,” he says. He also refused to ink some who “had some bad ideas.”

“You don’t want to get an impulse tattoo,” says Lathe-Vitale.

Maryland does have laws regulating tattoo parlors, but it’s confusing to figure out whether anyone can host a legal party parlor in the state of Maryland–partially because the regulation of tattooing across the state is completely inconsistent. According to the Baltimore City Health Department, however, all tattoo facilities must be licensed, and mobile tattoo parlors are banned. But Lathe-Vitale says that because the tattoos were free, he was operating as an “exhibition,” and therefore not in any violation of health codes.

All in all, 15 attendees went home with new ink–that was all the three-person tattoo team could fit in during the event, with each tattoo taking around 30 minutes to complete. For those interested in bringing a tattoo exhibition to their own event, Lathe-Vitale says he would do it again, granted the facility meets his standards with good lighting and cleanliness, and that he remain in complete control of the tattoo portion of the party.

“We have to have a good space where people aren’t bumping into us,” says Lathe-Vitale. “If we have control, we do it.”

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.