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Scottsdale, AZ to revise massage rules: Defecating on clients now prohibited

Therapeutic Massage
Therapeutic Massage

In a letter received by some massage business owners yesterday, the City of Scottsdale announced it is updating its Massage Facilities License Ordinance. According to the letter signed by Terry Hoglund, Tax and License Manager, and Scott Popp, Police Commander, this is being done so "the city can comply with state law, clarify the ordinance language and strengthen the integrity and professionalism of the industry."

Phoenix, Arizona area cities have been struggling with the issue of illicit "massage parlors" for years. In October of 2009, Mesa, Arizona police arrested 20 individuals in one of the largest crackdowns of illicit massage fronts in the valley. According to police 43 establishments were found to violate state or local laws in the crackdown. Mesa has since revised its massage laws. Read more here.

  • According to the City of Scottsdale's letter below are some of the proposed highlighted changes:
  • Adds violations to prevent illegal activity
  • Emphasizes the important role of the on-site manager, and requires on-site manager ID cards
  • Facilitates easier fingerprinting and other application requirements
  • Specifies circumstances where a massage facility license is not required
  • Makes technical changes to clarify provisions and close possible loopholes
  • Enhance public health and safety
  • Elevates public confidence in City of Scottsdale-licensed Massage Facilities

Indeed the current massage facility license ordinance is antiquated and conflicts in some places with Arizona State laws. However, the proposed new ordinance, while an improvement over the current version in some respects, also contains contractions and unnecessary language. It also still retains some of the bizarre restrictions of the current version.

It is clear when you read some sections of the revised ordinance that the City is trying to eliminate illicit massage fronts; however, often ordinances and restrictions only affect legitimate businesses and do not to stop illegal activity. Parts of the law such as the below excerpt from Section 16-221 are clearly focused on illegal activity. It is now illegal for a Massage Facility to allow anyone to:

“Urinate, Defecate, Vomit or Spit on Any Other Person, or Allow Another Person to Intentionally View the Urination, Defecation, Vomiting or Spitting.”

Other parts of the law appear to be illegal and many be challenged if they are not changed. For example, the new code states: (E) “It shall be unlawful for any person in a massage facility to: Touch in any way any other person’s genital organs, anus, or female breast.”

This conflicts with Arizona State Law (A.R.S. 32.4253) which specifically allows breast massage if the “client requests breast massage and signs a written consent form.” This also conflicts with other parts of the Scottsdale ordinance. Additionally, this would prohibit aestheticians who work at massage facilities in Scottsdale from performing Brazilian Waxing, and other skin care services, which requires contact with the genitals.

The ordinance also requires each massage facility to have, among other things, “a minimum of one (1) dressing room containing a separate locker for each client.” Enforcement of this requirement would essentially require all Massage Envy locations and others to close or install lockers. In those types of facilities clients get dressed and undressed in the treatment room without a locker.

While Massage ordinances are important and help prevent illicit “massage parlors” from operating, it is also important that the ordinances are written correctly and do not pose undue restrictions on legitimate businesses in Scottsdale. You can read the entire text of the proposed ordinance on Scottsdale’s Website.


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