Ordinance Tightens Restrictions on Massage Businesses

By Michelle Mears-Gerst Murrieta City Council Members adopted an amendment to the existing massage establishment ordinance at its Feb. 3...

By Michelle Mears-Gerst

Murrieta City Council Members adopted an amendment to the existing massage establishment ordinance at its Feb. 3 meeting.

Council members believed the amendment to Ordinance Chapter 5.18 was needed because of a conflict with a state law. City officials believe the regulation of massage establishments at a local level helps with enforcement and keeping crime down.

According to a city report, regulation of massage establishments by a local ordinance remains necessary because crimes that have been associated within the industry include human trafficking and money laundering. These crimes, authorities say, provide necessary regulation of the authority of all massage therapists throughout the state.

Murrieta Police Chief Sean Hadden was in favor of the changes and addressed the issue at the Jan. 20 council meeting, when the proposed ordinance was first introduced.

“The city’s 2005 law was successful until the state came in 2009," Hadden said. "With the revision of the law came pluses because each city had laws and requirements and the state wanted to uniform the requirements but when they did that, they lowered the standards to operate a massage business,” said Hadden.

The city and police were following an ordinance made in 2005. However, in 2009, Senate Bill 731 created the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) and altered local agencies' abilities to regulate massages. SB 731 created issues that were addressed when state legislature passed Assembly Bill 1147 in 2014.

AB 1147 continued to regulate massage professionals and allowed local agencies to regulate the massage establishments.

“In the past five years, we had to shut down businesses due to human trafficking and prostitution,” said Hadden. “The state still has right to regulate the therapists but the city now has rights to regulate the establishments.”

The new bill gives authorities the ability to deter criminal activity at massage parlors regardless if the therapists were certified by CAMTC. Local law enforcement throughout the state, including Murrieta police, witnessed an influx of massage establishments that had unscrupulous management and ownership practices, according to a city report.

In an effort to deter the crime, Murrieta’s admended ordinance prohibts commercial massage in a hotel or motel guest room or in a vehicle, regardless of the location in the city. Freelance massages are also prohibited and in addition to having to obtain a Massage Establishment Permit, all establishments must obtain a general business license.

“Doors cannot have locks, owners and managers must be on site. We listened to Massage Envy and Murrieta Day Spa. It outlaws freelance massages and creates accountability of owners,” said Hadden.

Dress codes of massage therapists were also adopted and a client must not have gentalia or breasts exposed. Prohibited activity includes consuming alcohol on site of a massage therapist, contraceptives, sexual devices or food. If a business wants to perform couple massages, additional requirements must be met.

The massage business must also keep record of the names of each patron, the service they received and the employee. Each customer must also fill out a medical disclosure that must be kept on file to let the business know of any communicable diseases. Patrons are not allowed to have a massage if they have a disease that can be spread. Police will be allowed to inspect the records to ensure compliance is being met.

The entire list of rules of regulations is 24 pages long. City council did not pull the item for additional discussion at the Feb. 3 council meeting. The amended changes were adopted unanimously by council with no public objection.

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