Franklin approves new massage therapy law after sex arrests

Franklin City Council approves massage therapy services in zoning code. ED RICHTER/STAFF Franklin City Building

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Franklin City Council approves massage therapy services in zoning code. ED RICHTER/STAFF Franklin City Building

Arrests for solicitation trigger new law limiting massage services to licensed individuals.

Businesses that offer massage services in Franklin will have to obtain a permit and verify that only licensed massage therapists are performing legitimate services starting July 20.

The city’s ordinances previously did not have any specific provisions on this topic, and city officials said it’s in the public interest to ensure only legitimate services are provided by licensed massage therapists.

City Manager Jonathan Westendorf said the issue came up as Franklin continues to develop a downtown revitalization plan. He said officials became aware of an unlicensed massage business operating in the city. Westendorf said complaints were lodged with police, who eventually arrested two women this month on suspicion of solicitation, in the 1100 block of South Main Street.

“This was a pre-emptive move to prevent businesses that we don’t want in the downtown area,” he said. “I think a lot of communities have established these types of ordinances.”

Other local cities have said massage businesses can be used as a cover for illegal activities, including prostitution. Franklin Police Chief Adam Colon said after the arrests, it was suggested that massage therapy services in the city be licensed, adding that it also helps prevent human trafficking.

ExploreDayton may crack down on unlicensed massage parlors

The new ordinance, which is part of the city’s business and taxation code, also establishes a new city permitting process that will be overseen by the chief of police. New massage therapy businesses will be required to submit documentation to the city confirming they only employ licensed massage therapists to provide massage services to customers.

A violation of the ordinance is a third-degree misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $500. A separate offense shall be deemed committed on each day on which a violation occurs or continues.

Hospitals, medical facilities and public health centers will be exempt from these requirements, and so will licensed cosmetologists, registered barbers or nail salon technicians who administer massages only to the scalp, face, neck, shoulder, feet or hands, the legislation states.

Other exempt jobs include licensed chiropractors, podiatrists, nurses and sports trainers.

The ordinance also has an appeals process as well as a provision to inspect massage therapy businesses.

Franklin’s new ordinance is similar to legislation that took effect Jan. 1 in Dayton, also requiring that massage therapy businesses only use licensed massage therapists for these services. Dayton’s ordinance has similar exemptions, and violations in Dayton start as a fourth-degree misdemeanor and escalate from there.

Dayton establishments in violation of the new regulations may be deemed a public nuisance. They also would be subject to inspection from police officers, zoning officials, public health officials and other agencies.

Several other communities have enacted similar massage ordinances in the past few years, including Springboro, Beavercreek, Kettering, Fairborn and Miamisburg.

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