Last September, Delaware City Council began the groundwork on a potential ordinance to better regulate massage parlors in the city in an attempt to ensure no illicit businesses would be able to operate under a disguise. On Monday, that work continued as council still wasn’t ready to vote on the ordinance.
As it is currently written, the ordinance would 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 would be subject to inspection at any time in order to ensure all service providers are appropriately licensed.
Much of the discussions surrounding the ordinance up to this point have been about ensuring the ordinance didn’t have unintended consequences for businesses already established in Delaware. That led to another hang-up in the ordinance’s passage on Monday when a group of women spoke of their concerns about how other arts that may differ significantly from a standard massage might be unfairly grouped in with the ordinance.
Constance Caldwell Piwtorak, a Delaware resident, spoke about Thai yoga massage, which she has been practicing for seven years. She said it is unfortunate the term “massage” has been attached to the art, because “we’re not massaging people, that’s not what we do.”
She added, “We’re not palpitating muscles. We’re not working on conditions. We’re actually helping to improve their feelings about how their bodies move through their energetic lines. If you’ve ever experienced acupuncture, we’re doing acupressure along those energetic lines.”
Caldwell Piwtorak said she isn’t technically licensed through the state but showed a certificate she said took three years of practice and studying to obtain and legitimize her ability to teach the art.
City Attorney Darren Shulman said such a business would “100 percent crossover” into the ordinance as it is currently written.
“When this whole issue came up, everything I’ve been saying is I’m concerned that we’re going to accidentally touch someone else, no pun intended,” Shulman said.
According to 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.”
Massage treatments include “the application of liniments, antiseptics, oils, powders, creams, lotions, ointments, hot or cold liquids or solid objects, or other similar treatments.”
“While they’re probably doing something that’s a lot different from your typical massage, I’m going to guess (our definition) would probably fit what (Thai yoga massage) is doing in some way,” Shulman went on to say.
“Tiny bits and pieces,” Caldwell Piwtorak replied, adding their clients are fully dressed and there is no massaging taking place.
Shulman said he believed the language of the ordinance defining what a massage is has been written for a particular purpose and is unintentionally encompassing other practices such as Thai yoga massage.
Mayor Carolyn Riggle said if the practice was simply titled “Thai yoga,” without massage in the title, it might not be affected by the ordinance. Caldwell Piwtorak clarified she believes massage is only included in name alone, due to the westernization of the art.
Seeking a better understanding of the art and how it pertains to the ordinance, Shulman asked if Thai yoga massage classes were done in studios or if it was typically more of a home occupation. He reiterated the ordinance is more about businesses receiving their certificate of occupancy to open a new massage establishment.
Caldwell Piwtorak said it can be either, saying there is a business in Delaware already that practices that type of bodywork.
“This is exactly why I do not like these kinds of land use ordinances,” Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said. “That’s what we’re talking about changing here, the land use code. To address the problem of human trafficking, which is a problem, and one that we should all be cognizant of in dealing with it … To try to parse what (Caldwell Piwtorak) just said, I didn’t even know (Thai yoga massage) was a thing … and I’m sure there are 40 other (practices) like that.
“We live in a world of shades of grey in land use, as council is well aware. But they’re at least generally shades of grey with which we’re somewhat familiar. This is, to me, going to set us up, in a land use way, that is very difficult to administer for the city. I don’t mind having land uses defined, and I don’t mind requiring state permits where the state already requires them, and making sure that our applicants simply provide evidence of those sorts of things … but this, I think we’re kind of going down the rabbit hole.”
Efland went on to say he didn’t have a good answer, calling the situation “very difficult.”
Responding to Efland, Riggle agreed it is difficult but said the city needs to do everything possible to keep illicit businesses out of Delaware.
“If we have to figure out a way to take Thai yoga out of this, then we have to figure that out,” she said.
Shulman said he will dive further into the ordinance to consider ways the city can still put up a roadblock for any potential business, while not alienating those who roughly fall within the guidelines of the ordinance based on its broad definition of what a massage includes.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.