Massage businesses in Petaluma will have to show their therapists are certified with the state or obtain city permits if a proposed massage parlor ordinance is approved.
On Monday, the council will discuss whether to require all therapists to be certified with the California Massage Therapy Council or submit fingerprints, photos and a doctor’s note to receive a permit from the city.
Petaluma Patch has written many articles about the lack of oversight of the massage industry in both Petaluma and other cities that allows illicit businesses to proliferate. Workers at numerous Petaluma spas have been cited for prostitution and regularly advertise their sexual services on sites like Craigslist, MyRedBook and RubMaps.
There have also been several arrests at Petaluma massage establishments for prostitution and, occasionally, other crimes such as when a spa on Vallejo Street was robbed my armed men last fall.
The hope is that the ordinance will force bad actors out of business, or at least out of town, and allow the police to inspect the establishments without having to obtain a search warrant. If the ordinance is passed, existing massage businesses will have 30 days to obtain a permit (which will cost $80) or risk not having their business license renewed.
“An ordinance would ensure you’re not employing known prostitutes or known criminals,” said Lt. Dave Sears with the Petaluma Police Department and one of the authors of the ordinance. “It's similar to what we do with taxi drivers, requiring them to undergo a criminal check to get a business license.”
Finally, the proposed law would impose fines on massage spas: $100 for the first violation, $500 for second and $1,000 for the third. Currently, workers are cited for prostitution or owners, for running a house of ill repute, but don’t pay fines.
Currently, Santa Rosa, Cotati, San Rafael and Sebastopol all have some type of massage ordinance on the books.
The council is set to discuss the proposal Monday at 7pm at City Hall.