City massage ordinance gets final approval


After several months of discussion and tweaking its language, the City of Delaware passed an ordinance that will better regulate massage establishments in the city. Delaware City Council passed the ordinance with a 7-0 vote Monday. City officials first began discussions on developing an ordinance last September.

As it is written, the ordinance will require anyone providing service at a massage establishment to be licensed through the State Medical Board of Ohio. Prior to new businesses receiving their certificate of zoning compliance, all individuals who will be providing massage services must also certify they reside at separate addresses than the business.

Businesses will be subjected to inspection at any time in order to ensure all service providers are appropriately licensed. Added in the final draft of the ordinance was language that allows for the certificate of occupancy to be revoked if a business is unable to show proof of state licensure, which would shut down the business’ operation.

Also included in the final draft is a $150 application fee for a certificate of zoning compliance. City Attorney Darren Shulman said the added fee stemmed from the conversation the city had last month with Sgt. Mark Rapp, the director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force. Rapp suggested any and all extra steps the city can force a new business to take to start a massage business would likely serve as a deterrent for those with ulterior motives.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect to overcome for city council throughout the construction of the ordinance was how it could be done without creating unintended consequences for legitimate businesses already established in the city. From the beginning of discussions, those concerns were raised by city staff, residents and business owners.

In the ordinance, a massage is defined as “the use of any method on, or friction against, or stroking, kneading, rubbing, tapping, pounding, vibrating, pressing, compressing, percussing, stretching, rotating, heating, cooling, or stimulating of, the external soft parts of a living human body, which may be performed with direct or indirect human contact, or with the aid of an apparatus, appliance, or other tool or object.”

That definition, however, encompasses a wide range of services and therapeutic arts that are far removed from what would be commonly classified as a massage. During a previous council meeting, Delaware resident Constance Caldwell Piwtorak spoke about Thai yoga massage, which she has been practicing for seven years, and which would fall under the definition defined by the ordinance.

Caldwell Piwtorak told council the term “massage” gets unfairly lumped in with Thai yoga, but that the art has no connection to what takes place at a traditional massage parlor. She added she was not technically licensed through the state but had undergone three years of training to be able to teach the art.

To remedy cases such as the one detailed by Caldwell Piwtorak, and those that are bound to arise in the future, council added a stipulation to the ordinance that will allow for council to consider specific cases that might fall in a sort of gray area based on its own individual merits.

Shulman said he was glad to have the testimony of Caldwell Piwtorak last month, because he felt like he “just wasn’t getting the whole picture, and I feel like that (Thai yoga) testimony really helped us get our hands around everything that is out there.”

By Dillon Davis

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Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.

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