MODESTO (CBS/AP) -- Massage therapists and day spa owners in Modesto say they are being hurt by a 45-day moratorium city lawmakers imposed on the opening, expansion and relocation of bodywork businesses.
About 10 California cities have imposed temporary bans on new massage establishments since a law that restored the right of local governments to regulate them took effect on Jan. 1.
Officials in Modesto, San Rafael, El Cerrito and other cities say the bans are needed to give them time to draft rules that would make it easier to crack down on massage parlors that they think are fronts for prostitution and human trafficking.
But some legitimate massage providers say the freeze has unfairly limited their ability to grow or sell their businesses.
Richard Dufour, the co-owner of Linda's Harmony Spa, said the moratorium has kept him from selling the spa to a willing buyer because the city refused to issue the new owner a business license during the moratorium that started on May 12.
"They are attacking everyone with a very broad brush, and that is not the correct approach," Dufour told The Bee. "This is an established business. It's already there. It's not a new business. It's already a duly licensed business for sale."
Under the revised state law, cities and counties can use zoning regulations to control where, when and how massage parlors operate. The moratorium in Modesto will be lifted once a comprehensive ordinance addressing those issues is adopted, most likely later this year, City Attorney Adam Lindgren said.
While voting to extend a massage moratorium until the end of the year, officials in San Rafael heard from independent massage therapists who expressed frustration they were being unfairly swept up in efforts to end criminal activity, according to The Marin Independent Journal.
The San Rafael City Council amended their ban to allow solo practitioners who were already licensed to relocate their businesses.
Denise Bazzano, a lawyer who is drafting Modesto's ordinance, told masseuses and spa owners last week that the time-out is necessary even though city officials understand it has impaired upstanding businesses.
Other cities that have hit the pause button on massage businesses are Industry, Huntington Beach, Diamond Bar and Glendale
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