It’s an unfortunate fact that sometimes massage parlors are fronts for prostitution. We had a reminder of that last year when a Bismarck physician pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution that was being run out a massage parlor.
Given the shady dealings of some massage parlors, it’s understandable that Fargo city officials want to keep a regulatory eye on those businesses.
The Fargo City Commission is considering a proposed ordinance that would require an annual city license and would involve city inspectors checking to ensure that the operators are licensed and running sanitary and well-maintained practices.
Massage therapists, who are licensed by the state, are protesting the proposed ordinance. They say the local regulation is unnecessary because of the state licensing program that involves inspections and requires standards, including many hours of educational courses and continued training.
Also, massage therapists complain that spot-check inspections would violate patient privacy. The city’s environmental health director argues that the inspections are necessary to ensure that all of the city’s 60 to 70 massage establishments are conducting themselves properly.
In light of the state inspection and licensing program, which all reputable massage therapists willingly subject themselves to, we’re not at all convinced that a city inspection program is needed for those establishments.
But it’s another matter for any massage parlor that isn’t employing licensed massage therapists. If those establishments aren’t using licensed massage therapists, just what service are they providing?
A section of the proposed ordinance would allow police to investigate any reports of prostitution or other illegal sexual activity.
We think it’s reasonable for those massage therapists who are licensed to be allowed to forego a city license and inspection program. However, establishments should register with the city, listing their licensed therapists, so health inspectors are aware of them.
Any massage providers who are not licensed by the state should be subjected to local regulation.
And, if there are credible reports of possible illegal activity, any local massage therapy establishment should be subject to local inspection — a situation that never should arise for reputable, licensed massage therapy establishments.
We expect those who are licensed massage therapists would be eager to prominently display their state licenses as a way to earn the trust and confidence of their clients.
That should be sufficient for local health inspectors, who should focus their efforts on massage establishments that aren’t staffed by state-licensed massage therapists. The state could perhaps arrange with local health officials to conduct any inspections the state might find necessary.
That sort of common-sense local regulation shouldn’t rub anyone the wrong way.
Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.