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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It is with a very sad and heavy heart that I write this post. This morning, the City of Chicago’s Committee on Zoning passed the amendment to the zoning ordinance that would restrict  “massage establishments” to B-3 and C Zones despite testimony from the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), a representative from Massage Envy and other Chicago massage therapists.

The amendment is now slated to for a full vote before the full Chicago City Council on Wednesday, April 14th that would immediately enact the ordinance.

The AMTA Illinois Chapter and I, and all the licensed massage therapists I know, continue to strongly oppose the amendment. The amendment is discriminatory and does not address the issue of illicit activity, the purported impetus of the original zoning amendment. And the worst part yet is the amendment does not allow legitimate massage establishments to operate in B-1 and B-2 districts (safe and busy retail districts where you can now enjoy your massages). It is still unclear if this means that 100’s of legitimate massage business in Chicago will have to relocate or go out of business!!!

WE CAN STILL STOP THIS AMENDMENT, BUT YOU MUST ACT TODAY! Time is running out! We have less than 36 hours for all fifty Chicago Alderman to hear us loud and clear.

On Tuesday April 13, please call, e-mail and write to the alderman where you live, work or patronize a massage therapy clinic !

We really need YOUR help, fellow Chicagoans! Please take just a few minutes to call or email your alderman or alderwoman today. Ask them to support legitimate, licensed massage therapists and local economies citywide and Vote NO to this amendment to the zoning ordinance!

Here is a sample email you can cut and paste or use and modify in your own words:

“As a client of a legitimate massage therapy business, I implore you to oppose the amendment to limit massage therapy establishments to only B-3 and 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. I do not want to have to travel to an industrial corridor to get massage therapy. Approving this amendment to the Massage Establishment Act will put a huge financial strain on legitimate massage therapy businesses if they are forced to 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.  It will not damage illegal massage parlors–it will only make it easier for them sell their illegal services in less populated areas. And it will hurt legitimate massage businesses and make it less safe for them to provide therapeutic, legitimate massage therapy to tax paying citizens like me. Please oppose this amendment.”

Feel free to cut and paste our sample email or write your own. I appreciate your help on this important issue!

City of Chicago Alderman Names and Emails by Ward

1st Ward Proco Joe Moreno ward01@cityofchicago.org
2nd Ward Robert Fioretti ward02@cityofchicago.org
3rd Ward Pat Dowell Pat.Dowell@cityofchicago.org
4th Ward Toni Preckwinkle tpreckwinkle@cityofchicago.org
5th Ward Leslie Hairston lhairston@cityofchicago.org
6th Ward Freddrenna Lyle flyle@cityofchicago.org
7th Ward Sandi Jackson Sandi.Jackson@cityofchicago.org
8th Ward Michelle Harris mharris@cityofchicago.org
9th Ward Anthony Beale abeale@cityofchicago.org
10th Ward John Pope jpope@cityofchicago.org
11th Ward James Balcer jbalcer@cityofchicago.org
12th Ward George Cardenas ward12@cityofchicago.org
13th Ward Frank Olivo (Zoning Committee Member) folivo@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 581-8000  City Hall Phone: (312) 744-3076
14th Ward Edward Burke (Zoning Committee Member) eburke@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-471-1414  City Hall Phone: 312-744-3380
15th Ward Toni Foulkes Toni.Foulkes@cityofchicago.org
16th Ward JoAnn Thompson JoAnn.Thompson@cityofchicago.org
17th Ward Latasha Thomas (Zoning Committee Member) lrthomas@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-723-0908 City Hall Phone: 312-744-7738
18th Ward Lona Lane ward18@cityofchicago.org
19th Ward Virginia Rugai vrugai@cityofchicago.org
20th Ward Willie Cochran Willie.Cochran@cityofchicago.org
21st Ward Howard Brookins ward21@cityofchicago.org
22nd Ward Ricardo Munoz rmunoz@cityofchicago.org
23rd Ward Michael Zalewski mzalewski@cityofchicago.org
24th Ward Sharon Dixon Sharon.Dixon@cityofchicago.org
25th Ward Daniel Solis (Zoning Committee Chair) dsolis@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 523-4100 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6845
26th Ward Roberto Maldonado Contact by Phone 773 395-0143
27th Ward Walter Burnett wburnett@cityofchicago.org
28th Ward Ed Smith (Zoning Committee Member) ehsmith@cityofchicago.org
29th Ward Deborah Graham Contact by Phone (312) 744-8805
30th Ward Ariel Reboyras ward30@cityofchicago.org
31st Ward Ray Suarez (Zoning Committee Member that sponsored amendment) rsuarez@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 486-6488 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6102
32nd Ward Scott Waguespack ward32@cityofchicago.org
33rd Ward Richard Mell rmell@cityofchicago.org
34th Ward Carrie Austin (Zoning Committee Member) caustin@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 928-6961 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6820
35th Ward Ray Colon (Zoning Committee Member) ward35@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 365-3535 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6835
36th Ward John Rice Contact by Phone 773)622-3232
37th Ward Emma Mitts emitts@cityofchicago.org
38th Ward Thomas Allen (Zoning Committee Member) tallen@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 545-3838 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-6811
39th Ward Margaret Laurino (Zoning Committee Member) mlaurino@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 736-5594 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-7242
40th Ward Patrick O’Connor pjoconnor@cityofchicago.org
41st Ward Brian Doherty bdoherty@cityofchicago.org
42nd Ward Brendan Reilly Brendan.Reilly@cityofchicago.org
43rd Ward Vi Daley (Zoning Committee Member) vdaley@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: (773) 327-9111 City Hall Phone: (312) 744-3071
44th Ward Thomas Tunney ttunney@cityofchicago.org
45th Ward Patrick Levar plevar@cityofchicago.org
46th Ward Helen Shiller hshiller@cityofchicago.org
47th Ward Eugene Schulter (Zoning Committee Member) ward47@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-348-8400 City Hall Phone: 312-744-3180
48th Ward Mary Ann Smith msmith@cityofchicago.org
49th Ward Joe Moore ward49@cityofchicago.org
50th Ward Bernard Stone (Zoning Committee Member) bstone@cityofchicago.org
Ward Phone: 773-764-5050 City Hall Phone: 312-744-6855
Note: Ald. Bernard Stone (50th Ward)  is the only Committee member that was opposed to the ordinance.  Thank you Alderman Stone!!!!!

A Better Idea For Massage In Chicago

In the meantime, the AMTA-IL Government Relations Committee is finalizing language for a model ordinance that would require massage therapy establishments to submit proof of state licensure when applying for business licenses or renewal (currently not done), and levying substantial fines for violations (also not currently done). Members of the Zoning Committee and a City Commissioner want to partner with the AMTA to address the issues of illicit activity in their wards without discriminating against licensed massage therapists and legitimate massage therapy establishments.

The AMTA proposal is designed to protect the public from illegal massage “parlors” without adversely effecting the business of legitimate massage therapists. But this proposal will likely fall on deaf ears if the current nonsensical and damaging amendment to the Massage Establishment Act passes on Wednesday.

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Massage in Frankfurt, Germany
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Whilst researching around the internet, I found a link to a chat room thread that exemplifies one of the problems massage therapists face to this day: the misconception that massage therapy is a sexual service. In this thread,  a young man inquires how to go about getting sexual services from a “legitimate massage therapist.” Which is really an oxymoron.

All too often, men (and some women) think that massage IS a sexual service and get confused as to what they are getting when they schedule a massage session. This makes it tough on those of us that are legitimate massage therapists. How do you know if your massage therapist or massage center is legit or a cover for prostitution?

Massage is Not Prostitution, But Massage “Parlors” Are Often Fronts for Prostitution

Because prostitution is illegal, prostitutes and massage parlor operators look for creative ways to mask the real intent of their product: Sex for hire. And what better way to conceal your true product than to market it under the name of a similar product or service: Call it “massage.”

Massage parlors don’t typically use licensed massage therapists. Why bother? Licensing for massage therapy requires at least a year or so of schooling, including anatomy and kineseology, at a cost of about $10,000-$12,000. And in Illinois, massage therapists get fingerprinted and go through a criminal background check–tough to pass if her or she has a record of convictions for prostitution.

Who Are Legitimate Massage Therapists?

Which brings me to my point. How do you know the difference between a legitimate massage therapy center and a massage parlor? Let’s run through a legitimate massage therapist’s goals, training and ethics to demonstrate how we differ from massage parlor masseuses.

Massage Therapy Goals

Legitimate massage therapists are people that like to help other people, non-sexually. We aim to relieve muscle pain, relax your nervous system and give you a period of time in which you and your wellness is the focus (which is tough to find these days between work, family, fitness and social obligations).

Legitimate massage therapy gives clients a safe space to relax. Licensed massage therapists are trained to respect client’ boundaries, be non-judgemental and compassionate.

True, there is a wide range of skill levels between licensed massage therapists, and some are far better than others, but overall, legitimate massage therapists strive to provide a clean, safe and relaxing massage session for clients.

Massage Therapy Ethics

Legitimate massage therapists agree to abide by a code of ethics that prohibits sexual massage. In fact, if a legitimate massage therapist is convicted of giving sexual massages, aka prostitution, she/he can lose their massage therapy license, face disciplinary measures from their professional association and be barred from performing professional massage.

Massage Therapy Training

Licensed massage therapists train in massage techniques as well as proper draping techniques to ensure your genitals are never exposed during your massage. In massage therapy school, we learn about skin conditions and how to avoid contagion.We learn about good hygiene and general health conditions. We undergo extensive testing in each massage class as well as at the end of our training in order to obtain our massage therapy licenses.

In Chicago, legitimate massage therapists must apply for and maintain current licenses with the State of Illinois. Any massage therapist that has been disciplined for performing sexual massage can have this license revoked. You can look up the validity of a massage therapists license online here. Your can also request that your massage therapists show you his or her state license. In addition, in Chicago, every Massage Therapy “Establishment,” from the Working Well Massage chair massage station at Whole Foods to the big spas, must have a Massage Establishment License.

Where Do I Find a Legitimate Massage Therapist?

You can find legitimate massage therapists on massage locater services such as ABMP, or Massage Today’s websites.  Link to my previous post, “How Do I Find a Good Massage Therapist?” here.

A massage therapy session can be a wonderful, positive, relaxing experience. Or it can be a way to relieve muscle pain, heal from injury or help you better cope with stress. What it’s not is an open invitation to harass, proposition or fondle the massage therapist!

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