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San Marcos passes new massage parlor regulations

The city of San Marcos, with little fanfare, has taken the first step to adopt wholesale changes to its regulations of massage parlor establishments.

The City Council in late May unanimously adopted the first reading of the new regulations, which, among other things, require all massage therapists working at an establishment to have state licenses, and caps the number of establishments at one for every 2,500 residents.

Additionally, brick-and- mortar massage establishments would have to obtain a new license, which costs $380 the first year and $308 to renew annually. Out-call massage establishments would be required to obtain a permit, too, but for $125 and $53 to renew.

The council must adopt a second reading of the ordinance before it takes effect 30 days after the second reading.

State law doesn’t allow for cities to require additional permits or licenses for massage therapists, but recent changes in state law granted cities and counties more latitude in requiring permits for the businesses.

San Marcos officials said that the city needed new regulations to control the proliferation of massage establishments citywide. In 2006, San Marcos only had one massage parlor. Today, according to city records, there are 31 massage parlors, three businesses that offer massage services and one chiropractic office, with 134 licensed massage therapists operating in the city.

The city inspected 20 of the businesses in February and discovered a number of businesses had serious code violations and had employees operating without valid state licenses.

Under the new regulations, a business would face suspension or revocation of its license if it violates any of the regulations, and a proprietor can’t transfer a suspended or revoked license to another person at the same location for five years.

The other major change under the new regulations are the cap and distance requirements. Under the one-per- 2,500-person cap, only seven new massage establishments would be allowed in San Marcos with its current population.

And those new establishments would be barred from opening within 1,000 feet of an existing massage parlor and only allowed in commercial and certain mixed-use zones.

None of the city’s massage businesses or therapists spoke or protested the regulations at the May 23 public hearing, during which the council voted 5-0 with no discussion and only a handful of questions.