by Dennis Dalman
At a Sartell City Council public hearing April 13, several residents and business owners spoke up to question a proposed ordinance regarding massage businesses.
Those who spoke up are Sartell residents Deb Frank and Angela Olson. Both own and operate therapeutic massage businesses from their homes.
The Sartell City Council has been pondering a collaboration with St. Cloud and other area cities for an area-wide ordinance to control massage businesses. The effort arose after concerns about illegal sex-for-hire activities at a Waite Park “massage parlor,” which was shut down.
Those who spoke at the Sartell council meeting (Frank, Olson and Olson’s husband, Jeremy) all said the St. Cloud ordinance is riddled with blatant slurs and sexual innuendoes that besmirch perfectly legal and legitimate massage businesses such as they own. Both businesses have operated in Sartell – one of them for more than 20 years – and they offer massage strictly for professional medical and therapeutic reasons. Unsavory goings-on at seedy sex parlors has ruined the reputations of good, legitimate massage businesses, the speakers noted, and those stereotypes influenced the “disgusting” language in the St. Cloud ordinance. They urged the council to delay adopting that ordinance, which they said could jeopardize or destroy their longtime respectable businesses. The “disgusting language” in the St. Cloud ordinance, Frank said, shows an “utter lack of respect for good massage therapists.”
Minneapolis, the speakers said, has an excellent, reasonable ordinance that should be a model for Sartell. What’s needed, they emphasized, is input from the community, from massage therapists and from other professionals before drafting an ordinance.
The council, in obvious sympathy with the business owners, voted to table the massage ordinance, an application license fee and a potential enforcement agreement with St. Cloud. They also said it is likely there will need to be a second public hearing.
In the meantime, city staff will work with the owners, professionals and others to draft an ordinance that is fair for all professional massage businesses.