By Sue Shekut, Owner, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Legitimate massage therapy happens every day!
According to the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals, the City of Chicago’s Committee on Zoning passed a motion on March 25, 2010, to amend its zoning ordinance affecting massage establishments. The amendment, sponsored by Alderman Ray Suarez (31st Ward), would prohibit “massage establishments” from operating in B Zoning Districts, moving them into C Zoning Districts only. The vote passed 2-0, but the majority of committee members did not vote.
Massage establishments in the city of Chicago can currently operate in areas typically used by other small businesses and retail establishments in local neighborhoods (B Zoning). If the amendment offered by Alderman Suarez passes as proposed, massage establishments would be moved out of safe and convenient neighborhoods and would be located only in areas normally zoned for commercial and industrial businesses (C Zoning), such as outdoor storage areas and automobile lots.
The zoning change would affect solo practitioners, massage clinics, and businesses that offer massage therapy as an ancillary service, such as spas and salons.
The proposed changes to the Massage Establishment ordinance make me think that some Chicago aldermen still think ALL massage therapy spas, saloons, clinics and sole proprietors are simply fronts for prostitution. For my clients, my massage therapists and all the massage therapists I know in Chicago, this would be a sad commentary on our elected officials view of the massage profession. As I said in my post, “Massage and Prostitution–Whats’ the Difference,” yes, there are some shady operators that open up massage “parlors” and use massage as a front for prostitution. But those are few and far between. The current laws have recourse for shutting down those types of impostors. It’s illegal in the city of Chicago for a business with a Massage Establishment License to offer prostitution. And a business that operates as a massage “parlor” aka prostitution, can be shut down and fined. Any massage therapist or non-massage therapist that offers sex for money will be fined and lose his or her State Massage Therapy License. And relocated massage establishments to C Zone Business districts will only help shady operators. People can come and go from areas with storage warehouses and car dealers without much notice. In B Zone Districts, illegal activity is more noticeable–and much more safe for legitimate massage clients and for legitimate massage therapists!
According to Fran Spielman’s article, “Alderman targets massages to rein in ‘sex parlors’” at the Chicago Sun Times: Suarez persuaded 26 aldermen to co-sign the ordinance, but some of his colleagues say he’s going too far. They hope to derail the ordinance on the City Council floor.
“He’s probably got one place that’s a front for a sex operation, and instead of going after it with law enforcement, he’s trying to kill a whole industry,” said one alderman, who asked to remain anonymous.
“Just clean up the ones that need to be cleaned up and let the legitimate places operate. I have a large hairdresser that’s trying to come to my area. Something like this would kill it.” Read the entire Chicago Sun Times article here.
I am sure Alderman Suarez is just trying to do his job and keep Chicagoans safe from prostitution. I applaud his good intentions. However, Licensed Massage Therapists are not prostitutes. We do not need to be hidden away in industrial corridors. We are professional, ethical, health care providers. And we have the required education, code of ethics and State of Illinois license to prove it. Limiting massage therapy businesses to C Zone Districts and industrial corridors would actually make it EASIER for disreputable massage parlors to operate and more DIFFICULT for legitimate massage therapy centers to offer legitimate therapeutic massage!
We need your help to keep massage therapy businesses in safe convenient neighborhoods. The next Zoning Committee meeting will be held on Monday, April 12th at 11am in room 201-A in City Hall at 121 N. La Salle in Chicago. Make your voice heard before this next important meeting.
Take Action Today!
1. Call or email Alderman Suarez and ask him to reconsider sponsoring this amendment. He can be reached at 773-486-6488. You can send him an email message at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Call or email your own alderman today and ask him or her to OPPOSE the zoning amendment. (You can find contact information for your alderman listed below. )
Let your alderman know that you oppose this change to the Massage Establishment ordinance and that you are happy having legitimate massage therapists near your local shops and retail establishments!
A Sample Email to Your Alderman
“As a client of a legitimate massage therapy business, I implore you to oppose the amendment to limit massage therapy establishments to only C Zoning Districts. I value the health care benefits of massage and do not want my legitimate massage therapist penalized for the actions of a few illegal massage parlor operators. I visit my massage therapist in a safe convenient location and I do not want to have to travel to an industrial corridor to get massage therapy. Approving this amendment to the Massage Establishment ordinance will put a huge financial strain on legitimate massage therapy businesses if they are need to expand or relocate, would make it unnecessarily difficult for new massage therapists to open a business, and could increase the city’s unemployment by putting legitimate massage therapists out of work. Please oppose this amendment.”
Feel free to cut and paste our sample email or write your own!
City of Chicago Alderman Names and Emails by Ward
2nd Ward Robert Fioretti email@example.com
26th Ward Roberto Maldonado Contact by Phone 773)395-0143
29th Ward Deborah Graham (no contact info)
36th Ward John Rice Contact by Phone 773)622-3232
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