Four Bloomington therapeutic massage businesses lost their license last week, abruptly halting business at three of them.
Relaxtation Massage, 674 W. 92nd St., Oriental Massage Therapy, 10558 France Ave. S., Yuan-Yuan Spa, 8746 Lyndale Ave. S., and Bloomington asian massage, 8905 Penn Ave. S., had their business licenses revoked by the city following violation hearings in front of the Bloomington City Council March 22. Representatives for three of the four businesses addressed the council regarding violations of either employing an unlicensed massage therapist or an act of prostitution being offered inside the business. Bloomington asian massage did not have a representative present for the meeting, and had indicated to the city that the business had been closed prior to the hearing.
The city doesn't have a history of revoking massage licenses, according to license examiner Doug Junker. "We're in new territory here," he said. "We've never had to deal with this before."
The Bloomington Police Department conducted undercover compliance checks of numerous massage businesses in the city, documenting violations from November through February. In each case the officer was unable to verify that the practitioner was licensed to perform massages in the business, offered a service deemed an act of prostitution, or both, on at least one occasion. The license hearings for the businesses were independent of criminal charges pending against the practitioners.
The city licenses businesses providing massage services, including table massages offered in strip mall locations, chair massages offered in shopping mall storefronts and spa services offered through hotels or health clubs, Junker explained. The only massage services that fall outside the city's licensing are massages administered for medical rehabilitation, such as those prescribed by a doctor or provided by a chiropractor, Junker noted.
Some chiropractors have massage licenses from the city, however, as they provide massage services in addition to those prescribed for medical treatment, Junker added. "At that point they are licensed with us," he said.
The primary criteria for obtaining a practitioner's license from the city is 400 hours of education and training from an accredited school, Junker said. In addition there is a criminal background check of all applicants, who much be affiliated with a licensed establishment before applying for a practitioner's license, he explained. In some instances an affidavit of experience is accepted in place of accreditation from a certified school if the applicant is working toward accreditation, he noted.
The city also has a temporary license that permits a practitioner to work in Bloomington for a short period of time. Those licenses are often for practitioners hired by businesses to provide chair massage services as an employee perk during the workday, Junker said.
Compliance checks for massage licensees aren't as common as those conducted for alcohol and tobacco sales, Junker noted. The city traditionally conducts a health inspection of licensed businesses once per year to ensure hygiene issues, such as laundering of towels and other cloths, is satisfactory, he added.
Undercover investigations of massage businesses are typically triggered by complaints, according to Bloomington Police Commander Mark Stehlik.
Although the council ruled on four businesses, it reserved judgment of one other, Best Massage Therapist, 9923 Lyndale Ave. S., pending further investigation. The business had one citation of employing an unlicensed therapist, and owner Yen Ping "Michael" Chang said his business had taken steps to ensure its practitioners were licensed.
By revoking the business licenses, storeowners are unable to obtain a new license in Bloomington. The assets of the business may be sold, however, allowing the business to reopen if a new owner is approved for a business license, Junker said. The city has 28 licensed businesses and 54 licensed practitioners, he noted.
Once the council revoked the license, the businesses could no longer operate. Patrol officers checked each business the following day to verify they were not open for business, Stehlik said.
other places affected: Yes