The Modesto City Council passed an urgency ordinance Tuesday night aimed at massage businesses that are fronts for prostitution and other illegal activity.
In a staff report, the city attorney recommended "establishing a (45) day moratorium on the establishment of new, and the expansion or relocation of existing, massage and bodywork establishments within the City."
The staff report further stated:
"This moratorium is needed in order to complete a study to determine 1) the potential impacts massage and bodywork establishments may have on the public health, safety and welfare; 2) determine what local regulations, including, but not limited to, zoning regulations, may be appropriate to limit the negative impacts of massage and bodywork establishments; and 3) determine appropriate controls for the protection of public health."
Some licensed massage therapy providers spoke out during the comment period of Tuesday night's council discussion, opposing the ordinance because it will impact their ability to establish or grow their legitimate businesses in Modesto.
City leaders acknowledged that there are a number of licensed lawful massage therapy businesses providing valuable services in Modesto, and they pledged to work diligently to come up with a permanent solution that will protect the legitimate businesses while cracking down on ones engaged in illegal activity.
In the end, the urgency ordinance passed unanimously, placing a 45 day moratorium on new massage licences and on expansion or relocation of exiting massage business in Modesto.
There are currently about two dozen massage businesses in Modesto, and the city has received applications for several more already this year.