Therapeutic massage businesses now legally can operate within the St. Clair city limits without having to worry about location or really about anything else, as long as they are licensed and following the rules.

Last week, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen made quick work of unanimously passing the ordinance with no discussion. The new law amends sections of Chapter 13 of the city’s code of ordinances regarding massage establishments.

“This is simply a cleanup ordinance to update our existing ordinances,” City Administrator Rick Childers told board members during their regular meeting.

He added that the city’s planning and zoning board had reviewed the old laws and recommended the changes.

In a nutshell, the city’s new massage establishment ordinance mirrors what is in place in the city of Washington. In fact, when the planning board spent much of its March meeting discussing how to update the law, it focused on what Washington already had done.

Other than some minor changes, the planners recommended adopting the exact same ordinance that the city of Washington already has in place.

“The planning and zoning commission recommends amending the ordinance to mimic Washington, Missouri’s, ordinance regarding these types of businesses with the exception of wording to include the city of St. Clair and the permit fees which should reflect current fees of $50 for both the massage establishment and each massage therapist,” planning board Chairman Myrna Turner wrote in the recommendation letter.

Why the Concern?

Therapeutic message businesses within the St. Clair city limits have been a concern of City Inspector Jeremy Crowe for quite a while, but until earlier this year he said he has not had the opportunity to address and remedy the situation.

According to St. Clair’s ordinance that was adopted in 1979, no massage business could 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. Those restrictions place the three current massage establishments in violation.

“Under our ordinance now, if I understand it correctly, massage establishments that are operating here are not adhering to the law,” planning and zoning board Chairman Myrna Turner said during her March meeting. “So we’re here trying to upgrade our ordinance.”

Discussion centered on the desire for the city to keep any kind of “illegal” or “adult” massage operations out, but allow licensed therapeutic massage businesses in.

City Attorney Kurt Voss said the “easy way out” would be for the St. Clair planners to recommend adoption of an amendment similar to what Washington did.

New Ordinance

Washington’s rules and regulations state that a massage business is “any place of business in which massage therapy is practiced.” A massage therapist is someone who is “trained, experienced and licensed in massage therapy and who holds a current, valid license to practice massage therapy.”

The license must be obtained by the state of Missouri’s Board of Therapeutic Massage. Since that is a requirement at the state level, Voss said, municipalities do not need to be concerned about the same thing locally.

As far as locations, Washington’s ordinance states that “no massage establishment shall be located within any residential zoning district.” It does not elaborate further.

St. Clair’s ordinance adopted includes that language and lists definitions, permit requirements and license rules and regulations.

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

Crowe told The Missourian last month that “the existing (old) ordinance, from my understanding was designed around an ‘adult massage parlor’ that had come into town years ago. At the time the ordinance was adopted, massage therapy was not very prevalent and from my understanding was not regulated by the state.”

That is why he believed the 500-foot language was part of the old ordinance.