SAN MATEO (CBS SF) -- San Mateo County supervisors voted Tuesday to tighten rules related to local massage parlors by getting specific about details including what the businesses should look like from the outside and what a massage therapist can and can't wear while working.
San Mateo County Counsel John Beiers said the proposed "tweaks" to the county's current Massage Businesses Ordinance, which was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2012, will help officials fine tune their inspections of massage parlors—especially those suspected of side-stepping regulations or even providing acts of prostitution.
"We get smarter all the time, and so do the illicit establishments." Beiers said. "It's essentially a chess game."
Among the proposals adopted by the board this morning was to specify that a massage therapist must wear a "non-transparent outer garment" that does not expose the genitals, buttocks or chest.
Underwear, bras, lingerie or swimsuits are not acceptable work attire, according to the amendment.
An additional tweak was to require unblocked visibility into any parlor reception areas that have windows facing a street or parking lot.
And business records, including the names of clients and the services provided, must be readily available to inspectors without prior notice.
Under the 2012 ordinance, massage businesses can only operate between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., and those hours will remain the same under the amended ordinance.
Dean Peterson, the county's director of environmental health, said the changes will make it easier for county departments to inspect the massage parlors because the rules will be clearer.
Currently, inspections are conducted jointly by the sheriff's office, the department of environmental health and the building department, Peterson said.
Since the Massage Business Ordinance was adopted in 2012, four massage parlors have been shut down for violations, and nine others have been cited, according to the sheriff's office.
There are still between 20 and 30 parlors operating in unincorporated areas of the county, and discussions are under way that could change existing zoning laws that would further limit where those establishments can exist, Peterson said.
Supervisor Carole Groom said she supports the idea of new zoning to ensure that massage parlors are appropriately distant from schools and other community facilities.
"I suggest that we dig deeper and do pursue the option of closing those in certain areas," Groom said.
No one spoke in opposition to the rule changes at Tuesday's meeting. The board is scheduled to make a final vote on the ordinance at its meeting in two weeks.
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