Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Fairfield bans paid, unlicensed massages

But city includes some exceptions

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FAIRFIELD - After twice delaying the vote in the past month, City Council unanimously passed a new ban late Monday against paid, unlicensed massages on the opposite sex.

Fairfield is trying to eliminate unlicensed massage parlors after police shut down two on Ohio 4 last year that were prostitution fronts.

The new law will take effect in 30 days. Violators will be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor, spend a maximum of 60 days in jail and face fines up to $500, the same penalty as prostitution.

Fairfield leaders had postponed adopting the new ordinance after objections from hypnotherapist Allicia Nelson. She is not licensed to perform relaxation massages at her Hicks Boulevard office but contends she is permitted to do so under Ohio law as she prepares to hypnotize clients who wish to quit smoking or lose weight.

The ban, she has argued, is an overreaction to the previous illegal massage parlors.

But the ordinance passed Monday included a newly added exception for people who perform unlicensed relaxation chair massages in public view where the client is wearing clothes that completely cover the body from underarms to midthigh area at all times.

After the vote, Nelson said she appreciated the exception and would conform her practices to meet it. Currently, her clients may take off their clothes if they wish but are covered with a sheet and lie face down.

"I feel pretty good about it," Nelson said. "It's pretty creative. I never would have thought of it. I guess I don't have to use massage oils."

Fairfield's new ordinance, titled "Illegal Massages by the Opposite Gender," is similar to ones being adopted throughout the state, city officials say. It was crafted after one in the City of Elyria near Cleveland that has withstood legal challenges, according to Fairfield's law director.

The new law is not aimed at legitimate, licensed professional massage therapists. Doctors and hospitals, besides relatives, are exempt.

It is not illegal to run an unlicensed massage parlor, but most legitimate ones are licensed, city officials say.

Leaders in Covington passed a similar ordinance last year, and police have conducted raids on illegally operated massage parlors there and in Newport, Middletown and Cincinnati.

In other action Monday, Council approved a zoning change to create a suburban entertainment district over 53 acres at Jungle Jim's International Market on Ohio 4 between Gilbert Road and Michael Lane.

The rezoning allows owner Jim Bonaminio to erect larger signs and have more flexibility as he expands his unique food empire with retail shops and a monorail.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.

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