After the Coronavirus disease shut down all non-essential businesses like salons and tattoo shops in NYC, Gothamist spoke with Mikhail Anderson, owner of First Class Tattoo, about his experience closing up shop back in March. "We closed right after March 13th. It was our Friday the 13th flash sale and our shop was slammed with walk-ins, who usually come to get tattoos that go on sale only a few times a year," Mikhail explains. "After hearing on the news that the pandemic was spreading so rapidly, we decided to close the doors of the business. Safety first, we cannot put our employees and customers at risk."

Though closing up shop was necessary to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, Anderson says the tattoo industry has taken health precautions very seriously, both before and during the pandemic. "Tattoo parlors have always been clean, safe places to be. Regulations and sterilization processes are at medical-clinic levels in most New York shops like First Class Tattoo. Inspection by the health department upon the opening of my business in 2016 ensured I followed all regulations, and we refresh everyone's knowledge on blood-borne pathogens, sterilization, and bacteria prevention every 2-3 months."

So... what’s next for the tattoo industry? Mikhail is cautiously optimistic. "The shop has been closed for 10 weeks now, and we’re still not sure when we will be able to open again. Hopefully soon! Hearing on the news June 1st, then June 7th, then June 13th gave us a little hope that we would return to doing what we love most in less then a month". But will things be the same as they were before? In most states tattoo shops have opened, and people are slowly returning to work.

Since tattoo artists work closely with clients for many hours, they take cleanliness and sterilization extremely seriously. "Our work always exposes us to the risk of getting sick and that’s why we always keep our environment as safe as possible." Therefore, Mikhail thinks not many things will change after the pandemic. "We will follow the same pattern while adding a few things to our daily routine. Every employee must wear a mask during work hours and we will make sure they sanitize their hands, as well as check their temperature upon the arrival of their shift. All surfaces must be clean and sterilized after every client. We will also have to limit the number of clients that will be able to come in each day to follow the social distancing guidelines." He elaborates that they will implement a new rule & prohibit clients from showing up with support teams of friends and family to the shop. "We will make sure to provide the safest environment to our clients and make their experience truly first class".

Mikhail says his clients are eager to reconnect with him. “During this downtime we received numerous emails and phone calls from people waiting to to get tattooed and bored of staying home, dreaming of new ink! Understandably this cabin fever has brought anxiety and depression to peoples' lives. We as tattoo artists do not only provide a piece of art on the skin but also provide therapy for people that come to the shop to get away from their problems. The purpose of art is to heal and our purpose is to create the art that will heal, while bringing new excitement to people’s lives that are getting tattooed.” Mikhail has been tattooing for 10 years and has been the chosen artist to several celebrity clients like The Dolan twins, Anwar Hadid, Tank Sinatra (George Resh), Jason Saltzman (founder of Alley), Marc Rzatkowski from the New York Red Bulls, and many others. Mikhail developed his unique style of mixing realistic vibrant pieces with abstract patterns, galaxies, and watercolor splatters. “Being booked far in advance, it was hard to reschedule the amount of clients I had in my calendar. This has been the first three months in the past 10 years I’ve been out of work for this long. I usually have clients that travel from all over the United States or from different countries to get tattooed by me. I really took this downtime to refresh my physical and emotional balance, and I’m ready to do new exciting pieces for my clients.”

Follow Mikhail on instagram at @mikhailandersson, and at @firstclassnyc.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between First Class Tattoo and Gothamist staff.