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City Talks Tough With Massage Businesses

Police begin enforcement of new regulations Monday; city officials encourage legitimate massage parlors.

Lafayette city leaders held a meeting Friday afternoon to encourage the legitimate massage therapy outlets and restate their commitment to shutting down the ones that have engaged in prostitution.

A half-dozen massage therapists and business owners came to the meeting at city offices on Mount Diablo Boulevard. Police Chief Eric Christensen led the session as the city begins enforcement of its new regulations on massage businesses on Monday.

Massage businesses by the numbers

Lafayette's investigations earlier this year tallied 25 massage businesses. Eleven have complied with new regulations to register with the police department, Christensen said; 11 others have not yet complied.

That leaves three that closed after police raids in recent months — Lelouch Massage, Classical Music Massage, and Body and Soul Massage. With each of those three, about 40 hours of undercover investigation went into documenting violations, Christensen said.

The investigations included traffic stops of people using the businesses. Police found registered sex offenders and parolees coming to town to have sexual acts performed at the businesses, Christensen said. Overall crime rates had risen in the neighborhoods of the illicit businesses, he added.

The investigations included review of Internet postings of customers who enjoyed their visits to faux massage parlors. "People love to post what happens," Christensen said. "They love to do it at Target, and they love to do it when they go out for an illicit activity as well."

City Manager Steve Falk said Lafayette is a magnet for personal services, including a concentration of nail salons, hair cutters, acupuncturists, healing therapists and massage therapists.

"We welcome you," he told the massage therapists in the meeting. "We want you here. We want personal services in Lafayette .. but the personal services have to be legal …"

"If you provide erotic illegal services, we will do what we can to get in the business, shut it down, take your records, take your financial resources," Falk said.

On June 21, Lafayette city staff presented new regulations to massage establishment owners and property owners requiring:

  • minimum health and safety standards for these businesses.
  • all massage practitioners to obtain certification from the California Massage Therapy Council, including fingerprinting of employees.
  • a log to track what's going on in the business.
  • no services from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Legitimate businesses

Christensen and Falk said those who attended the Friday afternoon meeting were probably the legitimate massage businesses, and they had invited the media, hoping to get the message out to the illicit businesses, as well.

A massage therapist who applauds the city's new regulations is Benita McCown-Harper of the Massage Cottage on Lafayette Circle, who attended the Friday afternoon meeting. Such regulations have worked in other area cities, she said.

She said she is a reputable therapist. Her clients, McCown-Harper said, love coming to Lafayette for a massage and many stay in town to go shopping after the massage. McCown-Harper said she is going back to school to become certified, including classes at the National Holistic Institute.

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