Blaine council considers massage therapy ordinance

by Tim Hennagir
Life Editor

The Blaine City Council is considering background checks and licenses for massage-related businesses and therapists as part of a proposed city ordinance.

Police Chief Chris Olson and City Clerk Jane Cross presented the ordinance Feb. 9. Massage therapists have been exempt from city licensing since 1989.

Cross said the number of individuals who have completed schooling for massage therapy is increasing.

Many business schools tell students to stop at city halls in an area where they intend to do business and ask about licensing.

Olson said 16 massage therapy businesses currently operate in Blaine.

Many metro cities have a licensing ordinance in place for massage therapists and massage therapy enterprises, Cross said.

Globe University/Minnesota School of Business and Rasmussen College have encouraged cities to put ordinances in place.

“Both schools actually took a look at our ordinance,” Cross said.

According to Cross, license fees would cover city administrative costs for supplying applications and renewal forms, review of application documents by staff, preparing agenda items for council approval as well as preparation and issuance of photo identification and the license.

Background investigation fees would cover the Blaine Police Department’s time for completing the background checks and making a written recommendation to city leaders regarding issuance or non-issuance of a license.

Cross recommended a provision for allowing a pro-rated fee if a license is applied for mid-year (after June 30).

There is a process in the proposed ordinance for managing an application that is denied by council.

According to Cross, exemptions are proposed for therapists who are licensed to practice medicine, surgery, chiropractic, physical therapy, podiatry, beauty culturists and barbers, places licensed or operating a hospital, nursing home, hospice, sanitarium or group home established for hospitalization or care of human beings and students who are performing massage in a clinical program.

Olson said new ordinance language would replace out-of-date terms such as masseuse, sauna, masseur and massage parlor.

Fees charged would cover police costs for background checks and renewals, Olson said.

Councilmember Russ Herbst asked Olson about enforcement issues.

“What about the person who gets into trouble before the background check is completed and something comes up?” Herbst asked.

“I don’t want to see us install an ordinance that punishes someone who has paid their debt to society.”

Olson said the proposed massage therapy ordinance would be similar to city liquor license compliance efforts. “If something flags within a five-year window, that could be a disqualifier,” Olson said.

July 1, 2012, would be the proposed licensing start date, he said.

The first reading of the proposed ordinance before the Blaine City Council would occur March 1, the second reading March 15.

A meeting with massage-related businesses and therapists would take place in May. “These are legitimate business enterprises,” he said. “Most schools require 500 accredited hours of study.”

During discussion, Councilmember Dave Clark said he didn’t like the education requirement that would be part of the ordinance.

“[Overall], I like the ordinance, but I struggle with the education requirement,” he said.

Cross said that nationwide, most schools that offer massage programs require 500 hours minimum.

“The goal in my mind is keeping prostitution out,” Clark said.

Herbst said he had a difficult time supporting an ordinance when the city wasn’t reporting problems.

Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]