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May 23, 2019

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Henderson to consider 4-month moratorium on massage parlors

The Henderson City Council will vote tonight on a four-month ban to prevent new massage parlors from opening and give staff time to craft new rules to crack down on prostitution in the industry.

The 120-day moratorium would stop the licensing of any new massage establishments until September.

The target of the new rules would be massage parlors that engage in prostitution and human trafficking.

City Attorney Josh Reid said the vast majority of the city’s 83 massage establishments follow the law, but there are a few “bad apples” that need to be weeded out.

The current enforcement strategy focuses on issuing misdemeanor citations to individual workers caught breaking the law, whether for prostitution or any other violation of regulations. The problem businesses, meanwhile, tend to stay open, Reid said.

“What these establishments are doing, when the business owner gets in trouble, they just transfer the license,” Reid said. “We need to rope this in.”

Henderson’s massage code was last updated in 2011 with similar goals of cracking down on prostitution. But Reid said the changes created a “clumsy” process that doesn’t give the city enough tools to go after bad operators.

The new rules sought are meant to give the city added enforcement options — including a hearing process that could lead to fines or license revocations — targeted at owners and operators of illicit massage parlors.

The rules would also require additional approvals for massage parlors that operate as an ancillary business in nail salons or spas, of which there are currently 30 to 40 in Henderson, Reid said.

A moratorium has also been proposed on new reflexology establishments, which deal with the manipulation of feet and hands for therapeutic relief. Reid said reflexology clinics have been less of a problem, but the rules for those businesses will be tightened to prevent fronts for prostitution from shifting from massage to reflexology licenses.

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