Open: After a change to local rules, a tattoo parlor has opened on the Promenade. Clara Harter

The Promenade’s first tattoo parlor and the first US location of internationally renowned tattoo brand Cleopatra Ink has opened its doors and ink bottles.

The store is located at 1340 3rd Street Promenade and aims to fulfill the wildest design dreams of tattoo seeking residents and tourists. Cleopatra Ink is one of the largest and most experienced tattoo companies in the world. It began as a single store in Alanya, Turkey in 2014 and quickly expanded to 58 studios employing over 1,500 people across Europe and now North America.

Cleopatra Ink will also be the only currently operating tattoo business in Santa Monica. For many years Santa Monicans were generally opposed to the idea of tattoo parlors and high permitting fees alongside zoning restrictions discouraged businesses from opening. This attitude has recently shifted and in 2021 City Council removed the costly $7,000 modified use permit requirement for tattoo parlors and approved a zoning ordinance allowing tattoo parlors on the Promenade.

“The difficulty of opening a tattoo shop is sort of a vestige of the day when people with tattoos were in the margin,” said City Councilmember Gleam Davis in an August 2021 meeting. “We need to come into the 21st century and our recognition of that, in all honesty, I think is part of cultural equity.”

Cleopatra Ink was thrilled to see these changes enacted and Santa Monica store Co-owner Alihan Dogan said he thinks the company’s culture aligns well with that of the city.

“It is a family friendly environment. I have a baby that is nine months old. She comes to the store all the time and other people come to the store with their babies. We’re not a conventional tattoo store, we’re not bad boys, we’re not bikers. We are very client oriented,” said Dogan.

Another key difference that sets Cleopatra Ink apart from other tattoo studios is its detailed and client-focused design service. The studio does not rely on tattoo reference books or tattoo artists’ sketches, but utilizes a team of graphic designers to create a custom design for each client based on their unique vision.

The tattoo design service is offered free of charge to anyone who is interested in getting inked at Cleopatra Ink. Clients will describe what they want and have the opportunity to see the graphic design pasted directly on images of their body for an accurate prediction of what their tattoo will ultimately look like. The studio also specializes in covering bad or old tattoos with fresh artwork.

Currently five of Cleopatra Ink’s European artists are working in the store and in the future Dogan said that the store seeks to partner and collaborate with Los Angeles-based tattoo artists. The brand also seeks to expand across California and America and considers the Promenade as the perfect place to launch that journey given its iconic location.

“We are really, really happy,” said Dogan. “This is the best spot that could ever happen.”