CL Moves to Stricter Regulation of Massage Parlors, Some of Which in Past Have Offered Prostitution

Prostitution arrests in message parlors have been made over the years in at least the McHenry County towns of Crystal Lake, Woodstock, McHenry and Algonquin.

Last night the Crystal Lake City Council passed an ordinance requiring the licensing of massage parlors.

The memo presented to the Crystal Lake City Council last night might be of interest to some.

Background: Several years ago, the State of Illinois passed legislation that changed the manner in  which massage therapists were regulated. As a result of this change, all massage therapists are now licensed and regulated by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations (IDPR). Local municipalities no longer have the authority to license or regulate massage therapists.

Legislation does, however, allow local jurisdictions to license and regulate massage establishments. There are over 30 neighboring communities in the northern Illinois area that have established massage licenses for massage establishments. The attached ordinance creates a process for a massage establishment license, as well as the standards by which they will be regulated. Licensing massage establishments is an important component of ensuring that only legitimate massage businesses operate within the City.

Since December of 2013, the Crystal Lake Police Department has made arrests for the offense of Prostitution at six separate massage establishments. After several arrests made in 2017, Police Department staff observed potential code violations occurring at some establishments. Specifically, there were resident complaints on a current massage establishment, where the resident felt that there were employees living in the business and that there was 24 hour activity occurring at the business. The Police Department, during one investigation, also discovered that a business owner of a Crystal Lake establishment was also an owner of a massage business in a different municipality where there were prostitution arrests made. Some of the Crystal Lake establishments are no longer in business, while others remain open. While the Police Department can continue to enforce criminal activity and make arrests where appropriate, it is difficult to enforce City code without a massage ordinance in place. Having the ability to regulate the establishment will give the City the authority to involve the business owner and potentially Agenda Item No: 13 2 employ an administrative process to close their business in response to the illegal activity.

Ultimately, this sends the message that the City will not tolerate this illegal activity and thereby lessen the chance of its occurrence and potentially prevent any future illicit business from opening in the city.

An invitation was sent to the City’s massage establishments to an Open House, which was held on September 11, 2017, at 6pm, at City Hall to review the parameters of the proposed Massage Establishment License Ordinance, collect feedback and answer any questions. A summary of feedback that staff received is attached.

At the February 6, 2018, City Council meeting, business owners of massage establishments presented the City Council with some suggested changes to the proposed massage ordinance. The changes to correct the term “masseuse” and to include a sentence that exempt businesses should not have their clients disrobe were added. Based on advice from our special counsel for this, the other suggested change could not be accommodated, without interfering with free speech rights. Adding some of the suggested changes are outside of the City’s purview and are best regulated by the State’s provisions.

Key Factors:

  • This license would be for the business, not the massage therapists employed by the business. They are licensed separately by the State.
  • The massage business license fee of $50 applies only to new massage establishments. Massage establishments existing prior to 2016 would not be charged a fee for their license.
  • The license application requires the business to complete the application, complete a background check, and provide annual updates of the information.
  • This is a similar process to the tattoo parlor license that has been enforced by the City for many years.

The City’s special counsel has reviewed the attached ordinance and it is in an acceptable format.

Votes Required to Pass: A simple majority vote.


Summary of Comments on Draft Massage Establishment License

  • Correct terminology from masseuse to massage therapist on all documents.
  • Sometimes there is not a manager on site, just the therapists. (Response – those entrusted to run the business in your absence would be responsible).
  • What businesses are exempt from this requirement (Response – head/shoulder, hand or foot massage are exempt from State requirements to license their therapist so would be exempt from the City’s license) Should be only if the massage takes place in the open.
  • On the second page remove the word, “amusement.”
  • What type of photo is needed? (Response – the Police Department can take the pictures for you for free if you schedule the appointment with Records ahead of time).
  • Do all employees need to have a background check? (Response – only those primarily responsible for massage business). [Need to clarify this]
  • If it is an existing business/building already occupied, would we need a new inspection or any of the retrofits discussed in ordinance? [need to exempt existing businesses]
  • What about people that work out of their home. (Response – they are not covered under State licenseing and would also be exempt from this license) Also what about the schools some of them have a massage therapist on site. [need to look into this exemption].
  • If head/shoulder, hand or foot massage is exempt they also cannot use word ‘massage’ in business name, per State requirements. [It was found that this is only regulated by the Illinois Department of Professional Services, not criminal code, not enforceable by City]
  • Why can’t City just enforce what State already has. (Response – we have tried. We have reported the misconduct on the States website, but no one comes to shut the business down. The only recourse we have is to hold the business owner accountable).
  • Can you just use our corporate ID # so we do not need to provide actual certificate.
  • Can you just photocopy the driver’s license so we wouldn’t have to fill out all the application information.
  • Shouldn’t have to pay the fee or pay annually, just another fee for the City to make money. [need to look into exemption for existing businesses]
  • This industry is already overregulated, this is just one more form and fee.
  • Enforce what the State requires, if a business employs professional they need to register with State. [It was found that this is only regulated by the Illinois Department of Professional Services, not criminal code, not enforceable by City]
  • Will not eliminate prostitution problem, just force it underground.
  • What about therapists that only rent a room for a portion of the time [thoughts on this are that this business offers massage therapy and would be subject to SUP and license requirements].
  • What if the business owner is a licensed massage therapist?


CL Moves to Stricter Regulation of Massage Parlors, Some of Which in Past Have Offered Prostitution — 5 Comments

  1. I’m not sure I understand.

    Were the Johns at a “Message Parlor” texting a prostitute to come around?

    Did they go to a message parlor because they misplace their mobile phone?

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