If Macon City Councilman Erick Erickson finally has his way — two years, several raids and dozens of arrests after he first raised the issue — the city would no longer offer business licenses to suspect massage parlors.
While Bibb County works to implement strict licensing requirements that mirror laws in many other Georgia cities, Erickson said he’s been forced to introduce a “stop-gap” measure because objections from the city attorney’s office have stopped his previous efforts.
Erickson’s new ordinance would require a state professional license to perform any service that requires touching below the shoulder blades or chest. In other words, Erickson said, “no touching, rubbing, tugging” unless the provider is a licensed massage therapist, doctor, chiropractor or other licensed health professional.
He has even included a provision that would void a business license if the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office discovers the business used a phony school to obtain their state license.
During the last two years, Erickson said he has tried to push several ordinances through the city attorney’s office but has been told each would violate state law.
“I’m really frustrated because I feel we keep being told ‘no’ instead of ‘we can find a way,’ ’’ Erickson said.
Assistant City Attorney Beth Duncan said state law regulates licensed massage therapists so the city cannot, which is why Erickson’s new ordinance would work. It only regulates businesses without state licenses.
Had the city passed laws like those in other Georgia cities, Duncan said, the city attorney’s office feared one of the illicit massage parlors might sue.
“We’d be putting people out of business,” she said, “and people get upset about that.”
She said she’s waiting on state Sen. Cecil Staton’s anti-massage parlor legislation to pass because it would open the door for the city to do more.
Staton, R-Macon, has proposed legislation, S.B. 364, which would provide for local regulation in addition to state regulation. It would make it illegal to “advertise massage therapy services combined with escort or dating services or adult entertainment,” and “unless such services are provided by a person who holds a valid license." State Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, is a co-sponsor of Staton’s bill.
Erickson’s broad approach not only circumvents objections from the city attorney’s office, but targets illicit businesses that offer “spa services” like body shampoos and table showers.
Councilman Rick Hutto said he’s still confused why it’s taken this long for the city to regulate the massage parlors.
“If City Council can concern itself with dogs and cats, certainly we can concern ourself with women who have been trafficked,” he said, referencing concerns that the massage parlors are also involved with sex trafficking.
Andrew Blascovich, spokesman for Mayor Robert Reichert, agreed.
“Something has to be done,” he said. “We can’t allow the city to be a sanctuary where these things happen.”
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.