Moratorium on massage licenses ends in Spring Lake Park

The Spring Lake Park City Council ended a six-month moratorium on the issuance of massage services licenses with approval of a new massage therapy ordinance at its meeting Jan. 6.

The ordinance sets specific insurance and educational standards for massage therapists in Spring Lake Park.

Massage therapists must hold professional liability insurance coverage of $1 million and prove completion of 500 hours of certified therapeutic massage training with an accredited institution to gain a license from the city.

Additionally, a new therapeutic massage enterprise license requires that owners of businesses that employ massage therapists obtain a separate license.

In the spring of 2013, someone inquired about obtaining a therapeutic massage license in the city, presenting educational transcripts that were indecipherable for staff, according to City Administrator Dan Buchholtz.

That was when city officials realized the previous ordinance didn’t set any standards for education. The language prevented “effective regulation of this evolving business in a way that protects the health, safety and welfare of Spring Lake Park residents,” Buchholtz wrote in a memo to the council dated May 30.

Staff studied the existing ordinance, as well as ordinances from other Minnesota cities. The new ordinance is very similar to Blaine’s massage ordinance, Buchholtz said.

Staff also consulted current massage therapy licensees working in Spring Lake Park, of which there are three.

The new ordinance allows for the three current licensees to be grandfathered in under the old regulations when they reapply for their licenses annually.

“We haven’t had any complaints,” Buchholtz said of current licensees. “We certainly [don’t] want the new ordinance to put anyone out of business.”

After research, staff and council drafted the new ordinance, which, in addition to setting insurance and educational standards, includes a comprehensive definition of “massage.” The definition incorporates new trends, such as touch therapy and snuggling.

Spring Lake Park received an inquiry from someone about starting a snuggling business in the city shortly after The Snuggle House in Madison, Wis., garnered an abundance of press this fall.

The Snuggle House charged patrons $60 for an hour of snuggling. It has since closed.

“I don’t know how serious [the inquiry] was, but it kind of brought [snuggling] into our radar screen,” Buchholtz said.

Including touch therapy and snuggling under the “massage” umbrella, a snuggling business would require a licensed massage therapist with proper insurance and education to operate.

With regulations, “we could ensure that it wasn’t a front for a prostitution operation,” Buchholtz said.

The new ordinance also prohibits the massage of certain body parts, exposed genitalia and improper uniform.

License fees will remain the same. A partnership/corporation license costs $350, plus $50 for a first-time background check. A technician license is priced at $100 with the same fee charged for a first-time background check.

The ordinance was reviewed at a council workshop Nov. 25 and approved by a 4-0 vote Jan. 6. Councilman Bill Nash was absent for the vote.

To read the ordinance in its entirety, visit the city’s website, www.slpmn.org.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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