Criminal record prevents tattoo artist from getting Lewiston license

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Aaron Aldrich has had a hard time getting his tattoo license from the city but hopes to soon be able to set up in the area behind him at Ink Junkies on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, where he was photographed Friday afternoon.

LEWISTON — Angela Whitely, owner of Lisbon Street's Ink Junkies tattoo parlor, did what she could to comfort Aaron Aldrich after the City Council tabled his licensing appeal.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Aaron Aldrich has had a hard time getting his tattoo license from the city but hopes to soon be able to set up in the area behind him at Ink Junkies on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, where he was photographed Friday afternoon with his wife, Angela, left and his two children, Annabel, 8, and Owen, 12.

"They're not seeing you, Aaron," she said Tuesday night. "They're seeing the paper. They're looking at your record, not at who you are."

In fact, it's Aldrich's record, his criminal record, that's keeping him from being the newest tattoo artist at her shop.

It's an extensive record, too: He was convicted of felony robbery in 2003, felony burglary in April 2000 and felony theft in October 2000 — in addition to several misdemeanors for theft, carrying a concealed weapon and other crimes.

Aldrich said he hasn't tried to hide from his past or the things that he's done. He served his time and was released from prison in 2010. Now 35 years old, he blames his past mistakes on drugs.

"I was just going around doing whatever I wanted," he said. "It was just drugs, and it was just stupid. Between 18 and 24 years old was just rough."

But he's changed now. He's cleaned up his act, he's married and he has two stepchildren with a third child on the way. His family lives on South Main Street in New Auburn.

"Ten years ago I was a very different person," he said. "I was a drug addict. I was a thief and an alcoholic. I'm not trying to deny that, but currently I'm a productive citizen of Lewiston and Auburn, and I haven't been in a stitch of trouble."

For Aldrich, much of his future depends on being allowed to work as a tattoo artist in Lewiston. So far, the city has denied his license to practice tattoo art at Whitely's shop.

"I'm just asking for a chance," he told councilors Tuesday. "It does not have to do with tattooing skills, my art skills or my hygiene in the shop. It all has to do with the felonies on my record."

City councilors tabled his appeal Tuesday to check to make sure his state licensing is up to date. They could make a decision at their Dec. 4 meeting.

"I don't mind waiting to make a decision," Councilor Craig Saddlemire said. "In general, I believe in second chances. If you want to work and earn your way, I don't think there's a reason you shouldn't be able to."

City ordinances require a two-step licensing process for tattoo artists: First, they must get the proper certification from the state to show that they are qualified. Then they need a second city license to allow them to practice within city limits.

City Clerk Kathy Montejo said there was no question for staff that Aldrich's license would be denied. His extensive criminal record took the decision out of the staff's hands.

"If he has those convictions, we have to deny it," Montejo said. "There is an appeal mechanism, and that's up to the City Council. They have the authority to overturn that decision if they choose to."

Aldrich doesn't deny any of his past, but said he's trying to move on. It's tough because he can't find a decent-paying regular job.

"I didn't just sit around in there," he said. "I got a welding certificate, and I did a carpentry program. I did all kinds of art programs — anything for knowledge. But none of it does me any good out here because I'm a convicted felon."

That leaves tattooing.

"That's what my family does; it's in my genes," he said. "I'm not trying to become a tattoo artist; it's what I already am."

Aldrich said he has the state license and a bit of experience in Maine. He spent the last summer working at Old Orchard Beach's Ocean Blue.

"I worked for three months, and I had people start coming in to ask for me," he said.

His father, a Massachusetts tattoo artist with his own shop, helped train him. His brother is a tattoo artist as well.

He can't go work with his father at his shop in Massachusetts because he's on probation and can't leave the state.

The Old Orchard Beach job was a summer-only job, he said. That tattoo shop is closed for the winter, and he's trying to make ends meet now doing odd jobs. He spent Wednesday helping install insulation in a trailer.

But Whitely said he has a talent and she's eager to get Aldrich started in her shop.

"Nobody is a saint. I don't care who you are," she said. "We've all done stupid stuff, and yet you grow past it. He's a family guy now, and he's trying to do things the right way."

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 's picture


If nothing else, maybe it will change one person's life, not to be stupid and do drugs and become a convicted felon because then no one wants you around, lucky we don't have three strikes your out.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Lots of unanswered questions

This convicted criminal claims not have been in a stitch of trouble since he got out. Excuse me if I have just a few doubts and would like some verification, as all we have to go on is the good word of a convicted criminal. Has this been verified with the police? A good report would have delved into this and reported this in the story.

What about his crimes? Has he done anything in the way of restitution to his victims? A good report would have listed his convictions and what, if any restitution he has performed.

What are the reasons that the council denied him a license? All we are told in this report is that based upon his criminal record, he was denied. Can we get a report on the reasons his license application was denied, beyond just "his record". There certainly must be some reasoning behind this from the council, can we get a report on this?

Beyond all that, why is this man being denied a license? A man gets out of jail, and none of us want him to be a criminal anymore. And yet he is denied a job. Why? That doesn't leave him many options.

Diana Currier's picture


he could probably get a pardon from the Governor, like the rest of them do..... There really must be more to this story than his side. Everyone is saying give him a chance, we don't know the full story, or I think they would give him a license...

 's picture

He did his time in prison,

He did his time in prison, now wants to get his life straightened out, and they deny him the opportunity???? What is wrong with this picture? If he does happen to mess up, the license can be revoked. Give this man a chance for God sakes!! He knows he screwed up in the past......haven't we all? Let him prove not only to himself, but to everyone else, that he can live a decent life and provide for his family. I'd be willing to bet he is a good honest man and that he truely did learn his lesson. People can and do change!!

Jenn O'Neil's picture


I'd like to know at what point Mr. Aldritch became rehabilitated? Was it when he was in prison and still making threats to people about what he would do when he got out? Do all the robberies and people he injured ever cross his mind? The people whose lives he affected?
It's real easy to just blame it on the drugs and say "oh, I was stupid,and don't even remember what I did..." But unfortunately,some of us still do remember.

 's picture

I'm sure his victims do

I'm sure his victims do remember, but people are capable of changing their lives and bad behaviors. He was young and
doing drugs, and unless you've walked in someone's shoes that has done that, you don't know what it does to a person.
They go to any extreme to keep themself supplied with those drugs. I certainly don't feel any of his crimes were okay, far from it, but he did his time in prison. He deserves the chance to earn an honest living and the chance to prove to himself and others that
he is, indeed, a good person. We all have made mistakes in our lives, some worse then others. But if people just continue to
condemn us for them, and not give us a chance to move on from those mistakes, then that is just wrong. Not one of us are perfect. And I would again be willing to bet, he remembers every day the people he hurt. But he does have to move on and make a life for himself too.

Richard Begin's picture

Tattoo You

What is the Big Deal I agree with Danny Fitzsimmons give this Guy a Slim Jim and let him do his work. We have way to many Rules that do not matter any longer

I Personally do not have or ever want a tattoo but so what it's not about what I want or is it?

Sandra Coulombe's picture

So what the city is really

So what the city is really saying is they would prefer this man return to a life of crime to support his family rather than work and pay taxes. There is no protection of the public involved in denying someone the right to work in a field they have the training and demonstrated ability to do the job. Protecting the public would be doing the exact opposite, encouraging and quickly processing any licenses for such a person who has served their time.
So come on city council do your jobs and protect the public through supporting all efforts of former criminals to turn their lives around and be productive members of society. Placing roadblock after roadblock against these folks succeeding in being law abiding productive tax payers is pushing them back into a life a crime and to me that makes those placing the roadblocks criminals against humanity!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"You do the crime you do the

"You do the crime you do the time."
Aaron Aldrich has done the time and now he's trying to put his life back together. He's entitled to every opportunity to earn a living in legal enterprise.
Aren't we supposed to be a 'forgiving' society? Or, does that forgiveness apply only to miscreant politicians?


what does a record do with art

What does a record do with an artist it is not like he is going to rob someone of thier limb, he is not working in the school, give the man a chance judge him on his skills allow him to work legaly and get his life together is the right thing to do. Lets face it the council does not like tattoes in the first place so they hold whatever grudge they can about those who preform the art as well as the places it is preformed. it is like they think if they allowed it freely then we all would have tats everywhere, and anyway what gives them the right to say what I can have and not have on my own body so much for rights of freedom and liberty.

licensing criteria?

Is there any reference in the city laws that prevent licensing to someone with a felon record? If so, there needs to be a limit to how long someone pays back to society. Maybe the ineffective law needs to be reviewed and repaired. There are too many people out of work to be holding a past record over a persons head for the rest of their lives. If there is nothing in Lewistons law then who's jurisdiction should it be to judge whether or not someone is rehabilitated? I'd think that the city should only be interested in whether or not someone meets the criteria for licensing. Someone's past should not be a criteria. Rehabilitation, a clean record, and willingness to work can't be a bad start to clean a persons slate. People who have been labeled as a felon share that status with murderers, rapists and others who have committed gross acts. This man in the photo is not a murderer or rapist but is grouped into the same category. That needs to be looked at as being ineffective also.

David Russell's picture

Too many tattoo artists already, but . . .

I have nothing against this man finding a job - as long as it is NOT as a tattoo artist, but not because of his history. If he has actually been "clean" for ten years, he surely deserves a the right to work and be a productive citizen. My prejudice is against tattooing in general.

So, many people are getting those ugly things. It probably does take quite an artisitic talent (I surely couldn't do it!) and the tattoos themselves may be considered artistic , imaginative and creative - I won't argue those points either, but they do not belong on the body of a pretty young girl or nice looking guy. They just DON'T!

I see the female body, for example, as the most beautiful masterpiece there is. To me, tattoos deface that masterpiece! You cannot "improve" the body of a pretty lady by adding images of anything. Oh, maybe an eyeliner or some such thing but that is a whole other topic.

What about the family members of tattoo recipients who dislike them? I have some granddaughters, one in particular in mind at this moment, in her early 20's. A beautiful young lady, exquisite! A superb figure and a sweet disposition. Just last week, she came home with a new tattoo on her side of an ugly half dog, half robot, tattoo! I have no words for the disappointment I feel and for what I perceive to be the feeling of her parents and other mature adults. So sad! So ugly!

In the end, people make their own choice as to whether to have one or not, either by their own opinions or by giving in to peer pressure. So, it is not exactly Mr Aldrich's profession that is at fault. I just wish it were, once again, only sailors that got them and his services not desired.

But as for his history and present desire for licensing, he should certainly be allowed.

Andrew Jones's picture

What does your prejudice

What does your prejudice against tattoos have to do with that guy getting a job?

AL PELLETIER's picture

Sailors and tattoos?

I still maintain that the two best things I did when I was a sailor was to NOT get a tattoo and the clap. My wife, on the other hand, has a huge tattoo of flowers on her back side right above her butt. I'm glad that's where it's located because at my age I don't get to see it very often. She once told me she wanted to get one of Tweetie Bird but I convinced her that if she gained weight and got wrinkly in her later years it would look like Big Bird.
In conclusion, we all have the right to do with as we please with our bodies and all people should be allowed to pursue the American dream, especially when it's making an honest living.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot wants to know what

The parrot wants to know what getting or not getting a tattoo has to do with getting the clap.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Good one.

Pride in my given body and smart enough to wear a condom ( when extremely drunk). Pretty good don't you think?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I could go in three or four

I could go in three or four different directions with that one, but I'll settle for wise decision making.

 's picture


I'm curious how anyone should be deciding what someone else does with their body and what is appropraite and/or attractive to different people.
I personally do not have any tattoos.. my issue is that I am an indecisive person that changes my mind a lot and I don't care to make a mistake I'll regret. Other people know what they want and enjoy tattoos. I certainly appreciate the artists and the artwork I see on others. Sometimes I cringe when I see something I think is hideous - but the person that has it usually likes it and it's their body. We all have different opinions and I have no right to force mine on others and neither does anyone else. ;)

 's picture


This man has paid his debt to society. He has a talent and there is a demand for these services. People want tattoos and have the right to get them. It's a lucrative business and he has the talent and drive to want to support his family.
Let the man earn his way and appreciate the fact that he cares not to continue his ways of the past.
It kills me when our government (local and federal) feel they have the right to deny citizens their right to earn a living. What on Earth are people suppose to do once they have paid their debt to society when they are denied the right to work?
They have to eat like everyone else.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I guess if one doesn't like

I guess if one doesn't like tattoos, one should not have their body tattooed.


That's really the extent to

That's really the extent to which it is anyone's business, unless you're using welfare benefits to pay for it. I got my first tattoo at age 52 and I don't regret it one bit.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Got my first one in 1955 and

Got my first one in 1955 and my last one in 1999. Can't wait for my next one. The holdup is I can't decide what I want.

AL PELLETIER's picture

The perfect tattoo for the pirate

Riml's portrait is directly under my post.

RONALD RIML's picture

Tattoo? Sometimes you don't have a choice.......

During the early 50's the government tattooed young children (with parental permission) - along with adults - with their blood type - "in anticipation of the sure-to-be chaotic medical triage environment that would follow an enemy bombing"

Remember the 'Red Scare?' I sure did.

And I remember getting tattooed when I was all of about six years old. It's still there, on my left side: B+

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Although I'm a few years

Although I'm a few years older than you, I have no recolection of the blood type tatoo campaign. Must've had my head in a dark place. Early 50's? The Pirate was in high school. Did have a tatoo, then, but it wasn't government installed.

David Marsters's picture

Tatoo artist

David, tatoos have been around for centuries. Indians had them. I do agree that a lot of us go overboard in getting tatoos. I have seen many people that have them, but you can't make out what they are as they have so many running together. I don't believe in getting them where others can see them. nd piercing is another subject that needs to be looked at. Oh well Dave, times have changed for us ole folks.


Tatoo Artist

Give this fellow a break. He has a skill,let him use it.

David Marsters's picture

Tatoo artist

I would give him the license on a probationary period for 6 months, then another 6 months. If he stays clean they should give it to him on permanent basis. The man did his time. If he can't find or do a job then he is a burden on the taxpayer. Food stamps, welfare, free medical. Get with it city council, he didn't kill any one. He appears to be a good family man, by the picture.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Okay, this committed crimes.

Okay, this committed crimes. he did his time. He claims " I haven't been in a stitch of trouble". Has this been verified? If this is true, what is the problem?

Does the council want to prevent him from being able to work and be a productive member of society? What will that leave him?

Seems there are some unanswered questions here.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Work or welfare?

I just don't understand the logic. Here's a guy who wants to work and make an honest living, provide for his family and pay taxes. Denying him the ability to do so will result in something society frowns on, a dead beat and a jail bird.
Bend the rules just a little and give Mr. Aldrich a chance to prove himself a useful member of society.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Pirate had considered

The Pirate had considered running for governor once, but he was reminded of a promise he made to his mother the last time he got out of jail; that he would never go back to a life of crime.
How was Thanksgiving, Al?

AL PELLETIER's picture

Great Turkey Day!

Just my wife and I for the first time ever, it was awesome.
Your post reminds me of when I was a juvenile (delinquent). Had I been an adult the Lewiston City Council wouldn't grant me a license to clean the city hall bathrooms.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I also was a juvenile

I also was a juvenile delinquent. Never went to jail, or anything like that, but it sure wasn't for lack of trying. Man, the things we didn't know as teen agers. Scary.
Our Thanksgiving was similar to yours except our son joined us. Nice and quiet, great food and outstanding football.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Front page, New York Times

Eighteen teens destroy federal circuit court judges home in Freeport Maine.You bet I never put that on my resume'.
Glad you had a great Thanksgiving.

Tattoo artist denied license

From someone who knows, he deserves a chance to make a living!

Melissa  Tame's picture

Oh, just let him have a

Oh, just let him have a license. What's the problem? He did his time.

Melissa  Tame's picture

Oh, just let him have a

Oh, just let him have a license. What's the problem? He did his time.


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