Working out the kinks: Grass Valley responds to concerns raised by massage businesses
February 25, 2018
A Grass Valley rule that forces massage businesses to close by 7 p.m. has had a significant negative impact on some of those businesses, according to their owners.
The City Council in April 2016 adopted regulations for massage businesses, which, among other requirements, established a closing time that some business owners say cuts out their most productive hours.
Ming Liang Wang, who owns Crystal Massage in the Glenbrook Shopping Center, said he's experienced a 20-25 percent decrease in business since the ordinance went into effect.
Wang expressed his concern to City Council members last week with the help of a translator.
"We open at 10 a.m., and, as you can understand, most of our business comes in the late afternoon and evening hours to accommodate working hours. … We have had to turn away hundreds of customers due to this unfair law," the translator said on his behalf.
Misty Alderman, who has been a frequent customer at Crystal Massage, said she's often unable to get massages now that the closing hours have had to change.
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"I work all day and when I get off I'd like to go and get a massage. I understand that there are different issues when it comes to the massage industry. … But I know this business personally from going in over the last two years. They don't do that type of activity."
Ray Liu, owner of Spring Asian Massage in downtown Grass Valley, said the majority of his customers come in for massages after typical work hours.
"The most productive business hours are between 6 and 9 p.m.," he said.
Because the city's rules don't allow Spring Massage to stay open past 7 p.m., employees have to turn customers hoping for one-hour massages away if they walk in the door past 6 p.m., Liu said.
Tammy Caber said she used to get massages at Spring twice per week due to a medical condition. But because she works during the day, she is now often unable to patronize the business.
"Because of these reduced hours, I'm not able to go as much," she said. "So it's negatively impacted my health.
Capt. Steve Johnson with the Grass Valley Police Department said the regulations were adopted in response to concerns about criminal activity happening at massage businesses.
Prior to Grass Valley's massage business rules, jurisdictions around Sacramento began regulating the industry in their areas due to criminal concerns, Johnson said. Some businesses from those areas moved to Nevada County, he said, because neither Grass Valley, Nevada City or the county had any massage business regulations in place at the time.
"We began to see places pop up in town that we had some significant concerns about related to human trafficking as well as prostitution-type activity," he said.
As a result, he said, the city set some standards, including a limit on how late the businesses can stay open. Grass Valley also requires massage businesses to employ licensed therapists and post certifications on the walls, among other regulations.
"Our permitting process assures they're all permitted, establishes reasonable requirements as far as cleanliness, set up of the place, things to assure it's not conducive to illegal-type activities," he said.
The police department met with massage business owners and other community stakeholders for input when it created the regulations, Johnson said.
After the requirements were implemented and enforced, two businesses that were out of compliance shut down, Johnson said. He considers the regulations a success.
A small handful of massage businesses have brought their concerns about the limited hours to the city, Johnson said. Officials are taking another look at the rules to see if they can address those concerns.
"Right now, we're in the process as a city of looking at that and deciding what we want to do," he said. "In the coming weeks, we'll see if there's going to be an expansion of that time window."
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4231.