Politics & Government

Wichita City Council approves regulating massage businesses

Massage business at 603 N. Edgemoor. (April 13, 2016)
Massage business at 603 N. Edgemoor. (April 13, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

In an effort to fight sex trafficking and prostitution, the Wichita City Council on Tuesday passed a sweeping ordinance that bans all sex activity in massage parlors and requires formal training for would-be masseurs and masseuses.

The ordinance also bans nudity while performing massages, requiring “fully opaque” coverage of breasts, buttocks and genitalia.

Massage parlor owners, operators and employees will be required to undergo an extensive licensing procedure including identification by age and race and certification that they have not been convicted of felonies or “crimes of moral turpitude” in the past five years.

The Wichita City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday with council member James Clendenin abstaining.

“I myself was a skeptic originally because of the many attempts ran at this in the past,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell. “We’re very cautious when we enact something that we’re not doing more harm than good.”

Julie Sharp, an independent massage practitioner since 2000, told the council she fully supported the ordinance.

“(Massage) is a good resource people have to better their health and better their life. It’s a tragedy that something so good can be used to harm some,” she said.

Sharp said she didn’t mind taking a few more steps to help solidify her profession. She added she wished the state would regulate massage so the cities didn’t have to.

Kansas is one of a handful of states that doesn’t regulate massage therapy.

The push for regulations came from police after they started seeing an increase in the number of human trafficking cases at massage businesses.

In 2015, police conducted 24 investigations and arrested 22 people on suspicion of human trafficking at massage parlors, according to city documents.

Wichita police interviewed several local massage business owners about the proposed ordinance. Many supported the new regulations.

Last year, a bill was introduced in the Kansas Legislature to license massage businesses, but it never went anywhere.

And it probably won’t go anywhere again this year, said Les Snyder, regional developer for Massage Envy, in a previous interview.

Massage Envy has 11 locations in Kansas, including two in Wichita. The company supports licensing for massage therapy, Snyder said.

Kelsey Ryan: 316-269-6752, @kelsey_ryan

New regulations

The city’s new ordinance requires owners of massage businesses or their employees to:

▪ Be at least 18 and a citizen or U.S. resident

▪ Not have convictions for felony/moral turpitude for the past five years

▪ Not be a registered sex offender

▪ Comply with building, fire, health and zoning laws, including sanitation of massage tables, sheets and towels and other equipment

▪ Pay a business license fee of $200 every two years

▪ Pay a therapist permit fee of $75 every two years

In addition, new therapists must do one of the following: pass a massage and bodywork licensing exam, hold a national certificate for therapeutic massage and bodywork or have an official transcript for 500 instructor hours or 150 hours from an accredited institution.

Existing therapists must do one of the following: have 500 hours of instruction from a massage therapy school of legal authority, receive 300 hours training in the past three years, have 10 hours per week of practice over the past five years or pass national certification. Affidavits and documentation are required.

The ordinance bans operating a massage business between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Doors will have to be unlocked at all times when the business is open, except in the case of sole proprietors.

Source: City documents

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