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April 18, 2014

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County pressuring reflexology clinics to weed out prostitution

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 | 7 p.m.

The Clark County Commission today approved stricter regulations for reflexology clinics meant to weed out unscrupulous operators accused of allowing prostitution and other illegal activities.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of the changes, which mirror regulations already in place for the massage therapy industry.

Reflexologists generally apply physical pressure to the feet, hands or ears to achieve a range of purported health benefits, including relieving neck and back pain, improving circulation and enhancing the immune system.

The new requirements, which go into effect May 31, include background checks, certification from a licensed school and limited hours of operation for clinics.

Reflexologists in the unincorporated county previously had been licensed as drugless practitioners, requiring only a general business license and no specialized training.

Reflexologists with a current business license won’t be required to undergo a background check or complete the full training requirement, although they will be subject to the requirement of six hours of continuing education classes each year.

The changes split the reflexology community, with some supporting the new regulations and others saying they are a costly and unfair burden that won’t address the core issue of prostitution.

The new rules limit business hours for reflexology clinics from 8 a.m. to midnight, although owners can apply for special-use permits allowing extended hours that must be individually approved by the county.

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow said the new regulations strike a fine line that support legitimate businesses while weeding out bad actors.

“The changes done in massage a few years ago have been so effective that groups carrying on illicit activities have moved to reflexology,” she said.

Business licensing director Jacqueline Holloway listed a number of concerns related to businesses advertising themselves as reflexology clinics, including overcharging customers for services, offering full body massage services illegally and illicit activity like prostitution. Holloway said reflexology clinics have also been the sites of fights, stabbings and homicides in recent years.

Enforcing current regulations is a resource and time intensive challenge for county staff and Metro Police, who also supported the ordinance, Holloway said.

“The goal of the ordinance is to bring credibility and some standards to the industry of reflexology,” she said.

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