New ordinance to regulate city’s massage parlors

Grand Junction massage parlors that have long operated unchecked will now come under scrutiny from city officials who want to weed out places that serve as a front for prostitution and other crimes.

The City Council on Wednesday night unanimously approved an ordinance that creates a multitude of regulatory hoops those businesses must jump through in order to operate in the city.

Under the ordinance, parlors must be licensed annually and are subject to inspections.

Owners and employees must be photographed and fingerprinted and undergo financial and criminal background checks.

“We felt that in order to really monitor these types of businesses, if they’re going to pop up here, we need to do some thorough background checks,” said Grand Junction Police Department Cmdr. Greg Assenmacher, who indicated officers last year counted eight massage parlors operating in the city.

The ordinance will take effect in March. Assenmacher said police will work with City Clerk Stephanie Tuin to notify massage parlors of the new standards.

The ordinance comes less than three months after the owner of a massage parlor on Horizon Drive was arrested and accused of earning tens of thousands of dollars by providing sexual services and using the money to hire prostitutes and pay taxes on property she owned. Fuji Oriental Massage owner Nan O’Reilly, 58, has been charged with racketeering, pimping, keeping a place of prostitution, promoting sexual immorality and pandering.

A second parlor worker, 52-year-old Suk Young Yu, is charged with pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. Authorities said eight women who worked at Fuji had criminal histories of prostitution in several states.

Fuji Massage operated for more than a decade before an 11-month police investigation led to O’Reilly’s arrest and the closure of the business.

City Attorney John Shaver said the Fuji investigation “has really opened our eyes to the fact that this could be a significant issue in our community.”

The regulations largely are modeled after those governing businesses that hold liquor licenses.

The city’s Liquor Licensing Authority will double as the body that will license massage parlors. The authority can suspend or revoke licenses if it finds the massage parlor engages in prostitution, sells alcohol or drugs or repeatedly disturbs the peace, or if the owner provides false information on a license application.

The mandates laid out in the ordinance don’t apply to registered physicians, nurses, cosmetologists, state-licensed massage therapists, health-care facilities or school training rooms.

Deborah Rosenbaum said she believes some type of regulatory service is valuable to “screen out places like Fuji,” while noting she knows other places like Fuji are still operating in town. But the owner of Nirvana Massage and five-year massage therapist said she believes the city’s regulations are duplicative because the state already requires those who offer massage services to be licensed.

“I think that for the city to set up a whole other set of licensure is a little bit redundant,” she said, claiming it would make more sense for city officials to enforce the state’s regulations “rather than try to reinvent the wheel.”

Terri Syperreck, a licensed massage therapist for 10 years who operates an office on Patterson Road, said she believes the regulations, if enforced, will put out of business people who claim to be offering massage services but don’t have training as a massage therapist.
“If it reduces the people that are doing illegal activities under my profession, I would love to not have it here,” she said.


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