Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2014

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All eyes will be on looser massage ordinance

Massage therapists may soon be able to go to Henderson homes or hotels to give rubdowns to members of the opposite sex, a consumer convenience currently illegal throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

The new laws, first proposed last summer, would allow the police and city business licensing department to monitor the long-stigmatized massage industry more closely, but also would allow it to operate more freely, David Lee, Henderson director of business licensing, said.

An independent massage therapist, for example, would be able to travel to a married couple's home or hotel room and provide a massage for both.

It's an increasingly common request from families in more affluent neighborhoods, many of whom have rooms devoted to holistic health care and massage tables purchased for as little as $250 from big box retail stores, said Vahan Trafaian, vice president of the Dahan Institute of Massage Studies.

But today in the Las Vegas Valley, fulfilling that request is illegal.

"I understand that these laws will put Henderson under the microscope (of neighboring governments), but hopefully we've got the ordinance tight enough to provide control, but loose enough to allow the industry to operate," Lee said.

Mayor Jim Gibson said he plans further review of the proposed changes "to get a little more comfort." But he said the new laws would help accommodate a growing senior population -- many are confined to their homes -- and it would help the city's high-end hotels run their large spas successfully.

The Henderson City Council will discuss the proposed changes Tuesday, but take no action before Feb. 19.

Also under the new laws, local massage schools would have to be nationally accredited -- all but one are -- and massage therapists would have to pass a certification test. As before, therapists must obtain work cards from the Henderson Police Department.

Clark County and Las Vegas updated their local massage laws in the mid-1990s, allowing opposite-sex massages at licensed businesses. But the two governments specifically prohibited opposite sex, out-call massage in an effort to discourage prostitution.

Jim DiFiore, director of Las Vegas business licensing, said today he would watch for any public concerns aired as Henderson discusses its new law.

Trafaian says his massage institute has been fighting the stigma for years.

"Vegas is notorious for being very, let's say, uneducated about the health benefits of massage," he said. "Las Vegas and Clark County need to wake up to the fact that we're a viable business and we have morals and ethics similar to physical therapists, psychologists and doctors. The heart of massage is one person trying to help another person."

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