In an effort to combat prostitution hiding behind the guise of massage, the Paso Robles City Council on Sept. 18 unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would strictly regulate the city’s massage industry with 13 pages of explicit guidelines and requirements.
The new rules stipulate that in order to get a business license in the city, massage therapists must be certified through the state-approved California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). Any business owners who don’t hold such certification will be subject to background checks and must be approved by the chief of police before being licensed. All massage establishments will be inspected twice yearly by code enforcers, who will ensure that interior doors can’t be locked, rooms are well lit, and no alcohol is served. Beds are also forbidden, among other things.
Lt. Ty Lewis of the Paso Robles Police Department said his staff met with local practitioners and researched similar regulations from across the country for input on the ordinance.
“CAMTC wants to use our ordinance as the model draft for other cities,” Lewis said.
Still, several massage therapists opposed the rules, claiming they’re too intrusive and burdensome for a business with slim profit margins. All applicants will have to pay at least $137 in new fees, and those requiring background checks will have to pay much more, as outlined in a fee schedule attached to the ordinance.
“This is a shotgun approach to a specific problem,” Cody Fergusson said. “Do what you need to do to solve the problem, but don’t penalize legitimate businesses.”
Lewis said that stings on prostitution parlors are largely ineffective, making the ordinance a must if police are to combat the city’s prostitution problem. Earlier this year, he told New Times that the police suspect many Paso Robles massage parlors offer illicit services.