by Ivan Foley
It’s almost official.
A massage therapy operation can now be a standalone business in Platte City--well, as soon as the city’s planning and zoning board follows up with action after the board of aldermen approved a code change last week.
But at least one massage therapist isn’t satisfied with the city’s ordinance, which was approved by aldermen last week.
Kirk Nelson, who along with his wife Julie is co-owner of Touchwork of Weston Massage Therapy, says Platte City’s ordinance has many flaws. Nelson spoke to the board prior to its approval of the new ordinance at a meeting last Tuesday night.
Nelson said there are a number of points within Platte City’s ordinance that create “undo burden on and financial expense to a law-abiding massage therapist, while at the same time providing little to no additional protection to the public in regards to illegal criminal behavior.
Points that concern Nelson include:
•The requirement to pay fees and receive permission from the board of aldermen for each event a massage therapist wishes to participate in, including wellness programs, health fairs, chamber events and fundraisers. He said the estimated cost to his business alone will be more than $1,000 per year.
will be more than $1,000 per year.
•Making it a crime to provide services at chamber events, charity fundraisers, charity sporting events or church conferences if beer or wine is available.
•A crime for offering adult beverages while hosting an open house reception.
•A crime for recording postural or movement distortions within their clinic.
•A crime for offering services of any kind on the premises of a business class hotel simply because their property includes a lounge.
“The city has expressed a concern about protecting the public from the spread of prostitution and human trafficking and it appears that an assumption was made that state-licenses massage therapists are a part of this problem. Unfortunately this assumption is based upon unfounded fears and prejudices instead of facts,” Nelson said.
Local police have arrested zero state-licensed massage therapists in Platte City for prostitution or human trafficking since state licensing went into effect on Jan. 1, 2001, he pointed out.
Nelson was bothered that the city had developed its ordinance without meeting with any state-licensed massage therapists for input but the city did meet with local ministers on multiple occasions about the topic.
“The only group the city did request and meet with--not once, but twice--was the Ministerial Alliance. A quality group, I’m sure, but I would question their level of experience and expertise in the field of massage therapy and health care legislation.
Aldermen approved the ordinance over Nelson’s objections. But city officials did say they have a willingness to review the ordinance again for potential changes in the months or years ahead.
“We’re one of the few communities that don't allow therapeutic massage,” says D.J. Gehrt, city administrator. Gehrt said a change to allow it will make Platte City’s codes “consistent with competing communities.”
The previous code in Platte City only allowed massage therapy when it occurs under the supervision of a licensed health care provider, barber, beautician, tanning salon, spa or fitness facility/public gym.
After property owners and licensed massage therapists had requested that the city amend its code to allow therapeutic massage services as a stand-alone business and to reduce other restrictions, the city moved forward with its ordinance.
Platte City’s ordinance also provides a special events review process to consider on-site massage opportunities, such as in a customer’s home.
Gehrt indicated the city’s past code had become an economic disadvantage for businesses and property owners in Platte City.
“Over the past two years the city has been approached by several property owners who had to pass up the opportunity to rent their buildings to licensed massage therapists because the current city code does not allow it as stand-alone business,” Gehrt said last month.
Some of the highlights of the city’s new ordinance include:
•It requires that massage therapy be performed only by persons who are licensed massage therapists with the state. Employees of a licensed massage therapist also have to be licensed therapists in order to give massages in the business.
•Allows massage establishments to be opened in ay zoning district that allows medical care facilities, barber shops, beauty shops, tanning salons, spas, gyms and fitness facilities.
•Operating hours limited to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
•No alcohol on the premises.
•No controlled substances on the
•No sexual activity.
•No adult merchandise.
•All licenses must be displayed.
•Provides an opportunity for on-site (such as in-home) massage activity to go through the special events permitting process and requires an additional $50 fee for special events involving massage. This portion also sets restrictions on alcohol use during special events.
•Provides a procedure and fee schedule for licensed massage therapists to provide at home “hospice” or other medical-related massage under the direction/supervision of a doctor or other health professional authorized to write prescriptions in the state.
•Provides a procedure and fee schedule for licensed massage therapists who do not work from a Platte City establishment to provide some special events and on-site services in Platte City.
•No audio or video recording of any kind may be made or kept on the premises except for security cameras, which may only be used to record entrances to the facility or activity at the cash register.
The ordinance requires individuals applying to open a massage therapy business to provide proof of a Missouri massage business license, proof of a state background check and proof of a state license as a registered massage therapist.
Gehrt said the ordinance is in keeping with the city’s efforts “to reduce regulations in a prudent manner and to increase the ability of private business to operate in Platte City.”
Gehrt said the changes in city code won’t become official until the city’s planning and zoning commission follows up with changes to the chapter of the city zoning regulations to allow massage therapists to open in the same zoning districts as other health care providers.