LAFAYETTE -- In a bid to curb suspected illegal activity at a handful of massage parlors, the City Council is eyeing strict regulations it hopes will eliminate vice.

The new regulations would require all massage therapists and practitioners in Lafayette to be certified by the California Massage Therapy Council, a group created by the Legislature in 2008. City leaders on Monday will introduce an ordinance that would amend the municipal code overseeing massage establishments to reflect this.

Under current rules, personal services are allowed without a permit in all of the city's retail zones.

Many Bay Area cities, including Pleasant Hill, are considering similar ordinances.

The path to certification is rigorous. Certified massage therapists and practitioners need hundreds of hours of training, including some at a Therapy Council-approved school. They also need to be fingerprinted, have passports and state identification and pass criminal background checks.

The city proposes additional requirements, including annual registration with the police department and records of all Therapy Council certificates for all employees practicing massage at a business. Parlors also must be closed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and city officials may inspect businesses from time to time.

Sexual conduct, according to a staff report, "is explicitly prohibited."


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The ordinance also would apply to established businesses and require them to meet the new guidelines.

The move comes more than two months after angry residents aired their complaints to Lafayette leaders about suspicious goings-on at some massage shops. One resident read an explicit review from an adult-oriented website detailing illegal activity at one of these businesses; others said employees have been observed sleeping overnight at some establishments and that a minor was reportedly propositioned for sex.

At least one owner spoke up about the allegations. Kenneth Helppie told the council in February that his shop was trying to do "an honest business."

Helppie and his wife had recently purchased Melody Massage, where she and other certified therapists offered shiatsu, athletic massage and other techniques. They have since sold the business, saying it never recovered from the negative attention. Helppie estimated their loss from the deal at $20,000.

The council will consider adopting the ordinance May 14. Businesses will have 30 days to submit paperwork to the city before the new rules take effect in June.

State requirements
Therapists and practitioners must:
  • Be certified by the California Massage Therapy Council.
  • Be fingerprinted, have passports and state identification and pass criminal background checks.
    City's proposed rules
  • Practitioners must register annually with the police department.
  • Businesses would have to provide Therapy Council certificates for all massage practitioners.