FORSYTH COUNTY — After weeks of discussion, a new massage and spa ordinance aimed at shutting down illicit businesses has been adopted in Forsyth County.
The county commission approved the measure and related regulatory fees in a 4-0 vote Thursday, with Commissioner Jim Boff absent for medical reasons. The new rules will take effect in January.
Among the changes is that businesses, along with employees who don’t have a state massage license, must be licensed through the county.
“What you have now is basically a two-tiered approach to this. You have a massage, spa establishment license that is not unlike our alcohol licenses, it will have to be renewed and applied for every year,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
“There will also be an employee work permit, not unlike, candidly, our alcohol server permit. It sort of does the same thing. That permit will have to be obtained by those individuals who are otherwise not massage therapists that are regulated by the state.”
The licenses will cost $250 for a business and $25 for unlicensed massage therapists.
The new rules also require employee records be kept and minors be accompanied by an adult. They also set businesses hours from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., with workers on site from 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
One of the more divisive issues was that a licensed massage therapist must be at the businesses while it is open to the public. Jarrard said he understood the concern, but that it could open a loophole to the illegal businesses.
“If we make an exception, say that you can have administrative staff with just the permit, every time law enforcement shows up, do you know who those people are going to be? Administrative staff, that’s going to be the line,” he said.
Another issue between businesses and the county is that the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office can make exemptions.
Judy Lefave of the American Massage Therapist Association’s Georgia chapter, said she was concerned that no exceptions would be made, as was the case in Johns Creek, which the county’s ordinance has closely followed.
“We are concerned that when and if Sheriff [Duane] Piper is no longer in his position and this ordinance is still in place, that it will turn out the same way,” she said. “After a year … in Johns Creek, not one exemption has been granted.”