City Looking to Massage Ordinances - The Missourian: Communities

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City Looking to Massage Ordinances

Hands-On Therapeutic Businesses Apparently in Violation of Older Laws

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Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 8:00 am | Updated: 7:42 pm, Sat Jun 22, 2013.

St. Clair Building Inspector Jeremy Crowe is working hard to remedy a situation that apparently has two or three licensed massage therapy businesses operating in violation of current city laws.

Crowe said the issue first came up while he was doing some research, and as he continued to look into the matter it was discovered that restrictive city ordinances actually are handcuffing this type of business.

“I had looked at this ordinance as well as others when I first took this position and realized that there are existing businesses within unapproved locations, and also realized the impact on possible future businesses,” Crowe told The Missourian. “I had full intentions on proposing an amendment to this ordinance earlier, but have not had the chance.”

The current city ordinance, No. 838, does place restrictive conditions on therapeutic massage businesses, but Crowe said he believes the original intent of the law years ago was to limit “adult” massage parlors from locating wherever they pleased.

“The existing ordinance, from my understanding, was designed around an ‘adult massage parlor’ that had come into town years ago,” Crowe said. “At the time the ordinance was adopted, massage therapy was not very prevalent, and from my understanding was not regulated by the state. The state now requires a license to operate a therapeutic massage business and performs the necessary fingerprinting, background checks and testing to obtain a license.”

The three massage therapy businesses currently within the city limits are New U Salon, 260 W. Gravois Ave.; Life’s Journey Massage, 400 N. Commercial Ave., Suite B; and St. Clair Physical Therapy, 1135 N. Commercial Ave.

Crowe said he is unsure if St. Clair Physical Therapy is in violation of the law because he said he does not know if it provides “physical touch therapy.” However, he said if it does offer electric stimuli muscle therapy, that could be considered a form of therapeutic massage and thus place it in violation.

“What prompted me to look into changing this ordinance was the consideration for renewal of two massage establishment business licenses, one of which changed its location slightly,” Crowe said. “The existing ordinance restricts the location of massage establishments even if they are for medical or hygienic purposes and makes it nearly impossible for such an establishment to operate within city limits.”

Problem With Law

Crowe emphasized he does not have questions, problems or concerns with the current businesses, but instead with the ordinance, which states that such a business cannot operate within 500 feet of a church, school, daycare center, park, government building, any business retaining a liquor or beer license or any residential area.

All three violate that restriction.

“To my knowledge, the requirements within the existing ordinance were not adhered to in the past,” Crowe said. “Nearly all of these existing business locations would appear to violate this ordinance.”

Unique Touch Therapy, 1020 Plaza Court, was in violation before it closed last year.

New U Salon is located next door to a gasoline service station, which sells liquor, and is across the street from the St. Clair American Legion building, which sells alcoholic beverages by the drink. Life’s Journey Massage is across the street from St. Clair Package Liquor. St. Clair Physical Therapy is across the street from Save-A-Lot, which sells beer and liquor, and is within 500 feet of a church.

All three are close to residential areas.

When it was in operation, Unique Touch Therapy was within 500 feet of Country Mart, which sells beer and liquor.

“I do not want to place blame on anyone who had issued business licenses in the past, nor am I trying to show any favoritism or hostilities toward any one party,” Crowe told The Missourian.

Current Ordinance

Ordinance 838, Chapter 13, Article V was adopted in October 1979. It’s heading is “massage establishments.” The law covers several areas, including definitions, licenses, fees, location of business and inspections. It also has a section titled “certain acts prohibited” as well as penalties. Some of prohibited acts language centers on “adult” activity while others concern being a licensed masseuse.

Current ordinance states that massage establishments must have licenses, and each masseur or masseuse must be licensed as such, too.

Amendment

Crowe prepared an amendment to the current ordinance and planned to present it to the city’s planning and zoning board last month, but the lack of a quorum canceled that meeting and delayed the discussion. The city inspector did place the item on that board’s March meeting agenda, which is scheduled for next Monday.

The amendment updates and clarifies the existing laws.

“The existing ordinance restricts the location of massage establishments even if they are for medical or hygienic purposes and makes it nearly impossible for such an establishment to operate within city limits,” he said, adding that the fee structure also has been revised.

Crowe also said the intent of the changes is to make sure all massage operations in the city are legal.

“The changes that are proposed to the ordinance, in my opinion, should be made to eliminate future operations of ‘adult massage parlors’ and possibly even ‘outcall massage services’ and only allow the operation of state licensed therapeutic massage businesses for medical or hygienic purposes,” he said.

His proposed amendment, which eventually would have to be approved by the board of aldermen, updates definitions, license requirements, fees and standards for issuance, suspension and revocation, exceptions and locations. In the location section, new language states that “a massage establishment ... may be located anywhere in the city of St. Clair, Missouri, which is zoned for commercial use and is listed as a permitted use within such district.”

Despite wanting to update the law as well as defend the current therapeutic massage businesses within the city, Crowe is proceeding with caution.

“I hope that this does not turn into a blame game or negatively affect the city or its administration in any way,” he said. “I am simply trying to correct an issue.”

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