Town to tighten regulations on massage parlors, therapists, public comment, Aug. 13

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Marty Gordon

Over the past year, there has been a growing issue across the country with the regulation of massage therapists and establishments, and ensuring that those individuals and businesses abide by ethical professional standards.

Tuesday night, Christiansburg town council set two public hearings evaluating new business regulations related to massage establishments and miscellaneous offenses involving prostitution within the locality’s corporate limits.

Amy Southall, a public relations specialist with the town, said the proposed ordinances are intended to help prevent the possibility of those problems occurring locally and provide an avenue to address and enforce issues if necessary.

Two massage parlors are in business along Roanoke Street, but no incidents have been reported at either location.

Major Chris Ramsey with the Christiansburg Police Department said checking the last six months, the department’s records management system does not indicate that there have been any sex offense or prostitution complaints at any of the local massage parlor addresses.

The new code language, according to the description of the ordinance, is recommended to clearly identify and prohibit acts that are commonly considered prostitution and are not explicitly covered under state regulations.

Items like “client,” “disqualifying acts,” and “massage” are more clearly defined and would not only affect the places deemed to be massage parlors, but also all massage therapists within the town itself.

“In consultation and direction from the town attorney, staff recommends these measures to provide protection of the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens by providing for the permitting and regulation of massage therapists and massage establishments,” Southall said.

Furthermore, new code language clearly identifies and prohibit acts that are commonly considered prostitution and are not explicitly covered under state regulations.

“The greatest majority of massage therapists and establishments abide by ethical professional standards, and these new regulations are intended to help ensure that is the case across the board moving forward. There are currently nine massage therapists/massage establishments that have business licenses with the town,” Southall said.

Locally, every one of these businesses are required to have a business license, while the massage therapist must be licensed in the state of Virginia through the Board of Nursing.

The new ordinances would not affect massages administered only to the scalp, face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and/or feet. Also, massages to the upper body while the client is full clothed and seated in a chair would not be governed under the proposals.

Also, it would not regulate massages in nursing homes or a life care facility while excluding physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists and/or nurses.

In cases nationwide, several massage parlors have been investigated for sex trafficking. Ramsey said his department is always on the lookout for the indicators of those types of crimes, and they maintain strong relationships with both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security should the department ever identify a problem of that nature.

“However, at this point we have no evidence to indicate there are problems with human trafficking in our community,” Ramsey said.

Public comment will be taken on the matter at council’s August 13 meeting.