Citing “ongoing community concerns,” City Council introduced a sweeping regulatory regime targeting “massage establishments” at its  March 28 meeting. Licenses, age restrictions, registration, inspections, and specific operating requirements would all be added to an existing state license requirement.

The ordinance is designed to stop what some called a prostitution problem in certain Evanston massage establishments, particularly one near Church Street and Dodge Avenue referenced by Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite as a source of complaints. Evanston police arrested one person last year at a massage salon on Sherman Avenue just north of Dempster Street.

The restrictions in the new ordinance, however, go beyond simply licensing and registration.

Among the operating requirements is that “All massage establishments must have clean, laundered sheets and towels in sufficient quantity and in a sanitary manner.”

The ordinance also prohibits false advertising “in order to induce any person to purchase or utilize any professional massage services.”

Unlawful acts under the new ordinance include massage of the buttocks, along with acts that on the surface appear to be already prohibited by prostitution laws. But the ordinance takes it further. “It is unlawful for any person, in a massage establishment, to expose the sexual or genital area, or any portions thereof, of any other person. … It is unlawful for any person, while in the presence of any other person in a massage establishment, to fail to conceal with a full opaque covering, the sexual or genital area of his or her body.”

The provisions of the ordinance appear to apply to both massage therapists and their customers.

In order to obtain newly required Evanston licenses, existing massage therapists would also be required to add separate male and female dressing rooms that fit within “operating requirements,” remove all doors to rooms in which “massage service [is] carried out” that are “capable of being locked,” and add lobbies in which price lists could be prominently displayed.

Massages in the client’s home, or in the home of the massage therapist, would not require a City of Evanston “massage establishment” license. Instead, the existing state of Illinois license under the Massage Licensing Act, effective since 2003, would be sufficient.

The proposed ordinance sailed through both the committee with the only comment coming from Ald. Braithwaite, who said he was told by Deputy Police Chief James Pickett that there was no update regarding the Church/Dodge establishment. The ordinance was introduced on the consent agenda without any debate or discussion.

The massage establishment ordinance will return for final vote April 11.