By Lena Friedman, CHS Intern
Laughing Buddha Tattoo and Body Piercing had plans to open its doors in a new Capitol Hill location on E Union, Madison, and 12th after losing its Pine and Broadway central spot. Then the COVID-19 crisis led to the closure of all non-essential businesses, putting a halt to its new plans. But as the COVID-19 phases play out, you’ll soon see the studio back in motion in a new part of the neighborhood.
Owner Christy Lillian Opal said that the Pine and Broadway building’s change in ownership from Seattle Central to YouthCare, a non-profit organization with plans for a new center providing services and housing to homeless youth, prompted this move.
“YouthCare bought the building and they didn’t allow us to stay,” Lillian Opal said. “We wanted to stay but they’re an amazing organization and they’re going to be using that space for a really good cause.”
Lillian Opal spent about a year looking for a new space before settling on the location formerly belonging to wellness spa Urban Float. Soon, “the largest float pod center in North America” will make a new home for tattoo and piercing artists.
Lillian Opal is excited by many aspects of this new space and finds its interior particularly well-suited for the studio. “It’s just a gorgeous space with tons of natural light and private rooms,” Lillian Opal said. “Since it was the float tank spa, it’s already very spa-like and that’s what I always try to do in my studios so it just worked out really well.”
The change will move Laughing Buddha from its Broadway roots after it had only recently settled in at the new home at Broadway and Pine. CHS spoke with Lillian Opal back in 2017 when the shop first moved from its home of twenty years in the Broadway Alley.
Now, it moves into relatively new construction and will neighbor Seattle’s Maserati and Ferrari dealership. While Laughing Buddha’s new space will make an excellent new home and is still near central Capitol Hill, COVID-19 has challenged its takeoff. The studio had planned to open in this new spot on March 26, but Gov. Inslee ordered the temporary closure of all non-essential businesses just days before.
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Where tattoos will fit into the four phase plan for reopening the state’s economy isn’t clear. Hair and nail salons are set to reopen in the second phase of the process — sometime in around three weeks or more depending on the outbreak’s continued slowdown.
“It’s pretty devastating. We’re negotiating more months of free rent and rapidly running out of money,” Lillian Opal said. “You know the build out alone was extremely expensive so we don’t have a lot left after that.”
Lillian Opal owns two other parlors in the greater Seattle area, Sea City Tattoo & Body Piercing and Queen Anne’s Damask Tattoo, the latter of which she said she had to permanently shut down.
Although Lillian Opal has had to lay off employees at all three studios, she is hopeful that they will be rehired once the shutdown is over, bringing the staff that worked at Damask over to Laughing Buddha.
“My whole purpose as a business owner is to create awesome jobs in the body art industry, so having to lay everybody off suddenly was really, really heartbreaking. Luckily they’re all employees so they were able to get unemployment right away but that’s obviously not ideal,” Lillian Opal said. “Once we’re able to safely open again, then I’ll be able to hire some of them back on and then slowly over time bring everybody back on, I hope.”
Laughing Buddha plans to open in its new space at 1121 E Union once state guidelines permit. You can learn more at laughingbuddhatattoo.com.
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