SIOUX CITY | Sioux City's massage therapy businesses would be required to obtain licenses from the city and undergo annual reviews under a new ordinance under consideration.
Authorities say the ordinance is designed to crack down on unauthorized businesses and those covering for illegal activity such as prostitution, human trafficking and drug dealing.
The City Council will vote Monday whether to impose the new regulations, which would go into effect at the beginning of next year.
A draft of the ordinance included in Monday's agenda states it is not meant as a deterrent to "legitimate licensed massage therapy businesses" but rather meant to weed out businesses that are unauthorized to practice or that engage in illegal activity. Such businesses can be difficult to identify, according to the document.
"Implementation of this ordinance will better enable the city to proactively screen, monitor and remove businesses that are engaged in illegal activity," the ordinance states.
Multiple Sioux City massage therapists contacted by the Journal Friday had not heard of the proposed ordinance but said they favored authorities cracking down on those operating in city limits without a state license to practice massage therapy, as is required by Iowa law.
"I'm in full support," said Joanne Klaus, a massage therapist who has practiced at Massage and Body and other establishments over the past several years. "I've always felt there needed to be more monitoring or inspections on the ones that don't seem to have an ethic."
Kevin Trowbridge, owner of Massage and Body, listed off seven businesses in Sioux City he believes are operating without licenses and said he believes they need to be investigated. He said he hadn't read the proposed ordinance but is not sure that additional regulations are the answer.
"I think most of our problem is enforcement of the current laws," he said. "I'm not sure how I feel about new laws."
New massage therapy businesses would need to pay a $150 license fee, under the ordinance. The fee would be waived for existing businesses, however.
Applications would include identification and information on the businesses' employees, their criminal records, any denials or suspensions of their state massage licenses and other information necessary for background checks.
Licenses will not be granted if the applicant or any owners, managers, employees or agents have a criminal conviction for a sex crime or for keeping a house of prostitution, or if they are a registered sex offender or have been denied a license by any other community.
The City Clerk's Office will initiate an annual review process to confirm business ownership, services provided and the business name.
A message left with the Sioux City Police Department to comment on the proposal was not immediately returned Friday.