New Port Richey puts hold on certain business applications

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The New Port Richey City Council has placed a six-month moratorium on new applications for businesses it has decided could bring unwanted elements.

Prospective owners of pawn shops, check cashing stores, blood plasma donation centers, day labor outlets, body piercing and - controversially - tattoo shops will have to wait before applying for a permit.

"It's not my place to tell them that they're wrong. But, they're wrong," said John Duggan, the owner of Custom Creations on Massachusetts Avenue. "It's class; it's nice-looking shops with good art and even better artists."

But city councilors, who voted 4-1 Tuesday night, say the reason for the moratorium is part of an emerging New Port Richey success story.

"We have taken great strides over the last couple of years to really reinvigorate our downtown," said deputy mayor Bill Phillips.

Phillips points to the 20 percent vacancy rate of businesses downtown, which just a few years ago was 50 percent, as a sign that the city needs to be careful of where it allows businesses that he says have brought safety and health issues in other cities.

"We want to be conscious of what those businesses bring to those neighborhoods."

There was little disagreement on council of the general point, but one councilor did question why tattoo shops should be included, calling them mainstream.

A motion to exclude them from the ban failed.

Duggan argues tattoo shops bring anything but crime.

"People with no money don't come and get tattoos, period," he said. "Tattoos are a luxury for people who have disposable income."

Even though they are not allowed under Florida law, the city also banned cannabis shops from applying for permits.