Illegitimate massage parlors targeted

December 27, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker sent the County Council TC tough massage parlor bill last week aimed at preventing employees from participating in prostitution, lewd displays and indecent behavior.

The bill would not apply to health professionals, athletic trainers, therapists certified by the National Certification Board for Bodywork and Massage Therapies, therapists who have completed advanced training in approved schools, or cosmetologists and barbers licensed to massage hands, feet, faces, scalps, necks and shoulders. The bill would not apply to their places of work, either.

Anyone else would be required to have a license before giving massages, and the place of business would also have to be licensed annually, Mr. Ecker said.

Owners and employees would have to pay annual fees in addition to a application fee and undergo a rigorous background check, including finger-printing.

The bill is aimed at getting rid of massage parlors that cater to clients seeking sexual stimulation, the executive said Thursday.

"We don't want to make it difficult for masseuses and masseurs that provide legitimate massage therapy," Mr. Ecker said. "There are a lot of legitimate massage parlors [in the county] and we want the public to know that. But we want to thwart those that are a front for prostitution. That's what we're trying to control. We closed up one in the last several weeks, and I don't know how many more are out there."

Vice and narcotics detectives raided an Ellicott City tanning spa last May after an informant told them that female employees at the spa were charging customers between $100 and $140 to have intercourse with them.

Following the May 13 raid, police charged two female employees with prostitution. A third woman at the spa was charged in an April arrest warrant with having sex twice with a police informant.

In January 1992, two women were charged with prostitution at a Columbia spa.

Under the bill proposed by Mr. Ecker, license applicants would have to be fingerprinted and would have to include on their applications police records for anything other than minor traffic violations.

The application would also include information about their training and experience, a description of the facilities and services to be offered, and a prior licensing history including any denials or revocations.

Individuals, partnerships or corporations planning to open a massage parlor would have to pay a $500 nonrefundable application fee. The license itself, if granted, would cost $100 a year.

Each parlor would have to have a licensed manager. Managers would have to pay a $100 nonrefundable application fee and a $50 license fee. Employees who give the massages would have to pay a $100 nonrefundable application fee and a $25 license fee.

As with the owners, managers and massage technicians -- the people actually giving the massages -- would have to undergo rigorous background checks, give a history of their training and experience, prove that they are at least 18 years old and be fingerprinted.

People applying for massage technician licenses would also have to include a statement from a physician that they have been examined within the 30 days immediately preceding the date of the application and that they are free of disease communicable by respiration or physical contact.

Technicians granted licenses would be required to wear opaque clothing which completely covers their "trunk and their erogenous areas."

They would be forbidden to engage in prostitution and to massage the erogenous areas of a customer or from offering to do so.

Violators would be subject to criminal as well as civil penalties.

The proposal will be put on the council docket Jan. 3, have a public hearing Jan. 18 and voted on Feb. 7.

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