For the first time in decades, the city has a legal tattoo studio: FleshEaters Inc., 722 S. Euclid Ave., which opened shortly before Christmas.
Until then, residents had to leave the city limits to get a tattoo. Who knew Ontario was so snooty?
The Planning Department says Ontario hadn't had a legal tattoo parlor since Eisenhower was president.
"I think in the '50s they did, but the Police Department worked them over and they left," Jerry Blum, the planning director, told me. (I think he meant regulatory harassment rather than rubber hoses.)
Finding an ink parlor in Ontario was like finding a tattoo needle in a haystack.
How much have things changed? When George Muecke won City Hall approval in December for a tattoo studio, the friendly Police Department urged him to phone me for publicity, guessing I'd find the situation newsworthy.
(Since childhood I've held to the quaint notion that the policeman is my friend. Rarely has that been more true than today.)
Muecke, who said city officials couldn't have been nicer, is amazed by his breakthrough.
"I'm pretty excited to be the first shop," Muecke told me. "To have the first shop in the city, it feels good."
He invited me down for a visit. Having never stepped foot inside a tattoo parlor, I agreed.
I figured he was worth some ink.
FleshEaters' neighbors in the two-story commercial building
Examples of Muecke's art line the walls. Specializing in macabre or fantastic subject matter, Muecke's paintings have appeared in Heavy Metal and Low Rider magazines. Many involve fine art-style zombies or Day of the Dead versions of sexy models.
The 29-year-old grew up in Chino and Ontario, attending Chino High and Chaffey College before getting a bachelor's in fine art from Cal State San Bernardino.
An entrepreneur, Muecke turns his paintings into prints and wallets and sells them at local malls, including Montclair Plaza. He's been doing tattoos for seven years, learning the craft in Hollywood. You can see his work at muecketattoos.com.
He charges $600 for a day, $350 for a half-day or $100 an hour. If someone wants a name or something simple, he would refer them to his assistants, Frank Duarte and Zack Moore. Muecke wants to concentrate on elaborate designs.
"Word of mouth is the best advertising because people are walking around with it, showing it to people," Muecke explained. "You do a good tattoo and the rest of their life, people are going to ask where they got it."
It's not entirely accurate to say you couldn't get a tattoo in Ontario until now. Muecke had a loft in the Emporia Arts District downtown and, under the live-work rules, could tattoo there without a business license, which he did from 2009 to 2010.
Then he opened a shop on B Street across from Logan's Candies for two years. He didn't realize the space wasn't zoned for tattooing and was shut down last August, although he said police were nice about it.
"They were cool. They told me you've got to go to the right zone," Muecke said.
He bought a zoning map from City Hall, studied where he could legally operate, drove around and approached landlords. Two turned him down before he secured his current space, the necessary first step, and then filed an application at City Hall.
"They said no one's ever done it. People call, but no one goes through with it," Muecke said. "When I went in to apply, all the city people were educating themselves on the process."
It might have been simpler to open elsewhere - "you don't even need a special permit in Claremont," Muecke marveled - but he was set on having a shop in Ontario, where he recently bought a home.
The final step was a Zoning Administrator hearing, a way for the city to grant conditional use permits for existing commercial space without the need of a full-blown Planning Commission meeting. Blum is the zoning administrator.
Muecke came prepared, Blum asked questions and set conditions, some of which were suggested by police, and the permit was approved.
Hours of operation can't exceed 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., customers or others can't loiter on the premises or in the parking lot, nothing can be displayed in the windows and no one under 18 can get a tattoo.
Those are in addition to the permits Muecke and his tattoo artists needed from the county Health Department and requirements for sinks, sterilization and other hygienic steps.
"I actually like the conditions they gave me. They make me more professional," Muecke said. Besides the sinks at every station, he employs needles from a sterile pack to ensure nothing is ever used twice. He installed hand sanitizers because he thought it was a good idea.
When I was there Tuesday, Charlie Cooper was getting a Filipino tribal emblem tattooed on his bicep. It was his third session. Moore, one of Muecke's assistants, was the artist.
"This is my best friend from kindergarten," Cooper told me as Moore worked. "He's doing great."
Cooper is an Ontario resident who was able to get tattooed in his own city, which I guess is progress of a sort.
Blum, the planning director, said he doesn't know why no one ever opened a tattoo parlor in Ontario before, despite inquiries.
"When they find out how many conditions we have, they think, maybe I want to go somewhere that's less restrictive," Blum speculated. "They're certainly all around us."
Montclair, for example, which is far smaller than Ontario, has five licensed shops. Yet Montclair, like Ontario, also requires a conditional use permit.
Blum, 61, is tattoo-free, but his oldest son has a tattoo and several neighbors in his block do as well.
"With the new TV shows, it's more mainstream now. People aren't saying it's such a bad thing," Blum added.
He said Muecke impressed him as a straightforward person and a good businessman. Muecke had kind words for Blum as well.
"That guy's awesome, man," Muecke told me. "That guy had my back."
Whether it's a tattooed back, I don't know.
David Allen slings ink Friday, Sunday and Wednesday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-483-9339, read his blog at dailybulletin.com/davidallenblog, check out facebook.com/davidallencolumnist and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.