Tempe Tattoo Studio Lawsuit Settled

Goldwater Institute News Release

PHOENIX – After a three-year legal battle, Tom and Elizabeth Preston soon will be able to open Body Accents Tattoo and Piercing Studio in Tempe.

The Prestons have settled their lawsuit against Tempe which challenged the City’s refusal to allow the couple to open a tattoo studio near Scottsdale and Curry Roads. Both sides have agreed to dismiss their appeals of a 2009 trial court ruling. Maricopa County Judge Robert H. Oberbillig ruled the City’s revocation of the Prestons’ operating permit was arbitrary and capricious, and ordered Tempe to restore the permit. But Judge Oberbillig determined the Prestons shouldn’t receive monetary damages for more than $20,000 that they had invested in the business before Tempe revoked their permit.

“This lifts such a weight off of our shoulders,” Elizabeth Preston said. “Clearly, we lost money because we couldn’t open the studio three years ago. Now, we can do something that we are passionate about and will allow us to recover our losses in a business that continues to grow.”

“This little studio will be a monument to the triumph of economic freedom,” said Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, which represented the Prestons. “No business owner should have to endure what the Prestons went through. After the trial court precedent, we hope no one will have to do so again.”

This case protects the fundamental right of anyone to pursue a livelihood and operate a legal business without a local government shutting it down because of personal, negative feelings not based in fact or the law, Mr. Bolick said.
The Prestons have owned Virtual Reality, a tattoo studio in Mesa, for 20 years with no complaints filed against them. In 2007, the City of Tempe issued a permit for their new studio, Body Accents. But the City Council rescinded that permit after substantial investment by the Prestons based on the “perception” that the studio would harm the neighborhood.

The Prestons received their Tempe operating permit today and hope to open the Body Accents studio in early August. Mr. Bolick plans to fulfill a vow to get “inked” with his first tattoo when the studio opens.

Read more about this and other Goldwater lawsuits to protect individual rights and keep government within its constitutional limits at www.goldwaterinstitute.org/litigation. The Goldwater Institute is a research and litigation organization whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.


  1. This is the loss of the rights of neighbors to protect their children from secondary effect businesses. This is the loss of the process of citizens to appeal to their city council to protect them and their property values.

    The Tempe City Council did the right thing and listened to citizens who appealed to them and denied the permit to this tattoo palor who threatened neighbors. The Prestons called private citizens and threatened them. The Tempe City Council heard this testimony and denied their permit.

    The greedy Goldwater Institute did not listen to the citizens of this community. They went straight to court. That’s not conservatism. That’s shameful.

    I hope that a group of tattoo palors, strip clubs and porn shops move right next door to Clint Bolick. Then he will know the threat to his children that the neighbors in that neighborhood feel for their children. Shawna Bolick’s political posters with her children’s pictures are a joke. She doesn’t care about the children in that neighborhood.

    This was about greed. I hope donors to Goldwater take note and stop giving.

    I hope the Preston’s tattoo parlor fails badly.

    Shame on both of them.

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