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County takes steps toward tougher massage parlor rules
Massage parlor

More than two years after Forsyth County adopted an ordinance for local massage parlors, the county is making some changes and the city of Cumming is considering their own ordinance.

At a work session on Tuesday, Forsyth County Commissioners voted to go ahead with changes to the massage and spa ordinance to give the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office more tools to tackle massage parlors where illegal activity is happening. 

“We had a meeting with the sheriff’s office,” said Attorney Aaron Meyer, who was filling in for County Attorney Ken Jarrard. “With their input, we were able to come up with a list of things that the county needed to address in its massage and spa ordinance in order to give them the tools they need to enforce it.”

The change will next go to a public hearing at a future commission meeting.

Meyer said there was unease with law enforcement that violators could be reopening businesses or coming from other areas.

“Once these are identified, located, prosecuted, there has been a concern that people affiliated with one will reopen a new business somewhere else or that someone from another county all together could have been shut down in that county and came to Forsyth to open a business,” he said. 

The county, Meyer said, had the option to revoke business licenses from businesses with multiple violations, which the sheriff’s office could not.

“The sheriff’s office, on the other hand, perhaps this was an oversight in the original draft, did not have the ability to deny someone’s application if [they] had had three violations in a 12-month period,” Meyer said. “They also wanted to have the ability to conduct fingerprint checks on not just the business owners themselves, who are required, but also people who are coming in for a work permit.”

Other changes will give the sheriff’s office the ability to look up the criminal record of applicants through the Georgia Crime Information Center and FBI, stipulated that licenses shown to officers have the license holder’s date of birth and ensure all state license and work permits were visible to the public.

The ordinance would also have to disclose if the applicant or those in charge of operation had been allowed the use, possession or sale of controlled substances, allowed sex acts or prostitution or allowed underage consumption of alcohol on premises or if they had been convicted, plead guilty or plead nolo contendere to three or more violations in the last year. 

In November 2015, Forsyth County adopted a new ordinance to tackle massage parlors allowing illicit activity.

Changes to the original ordinance were adopted in August 2017, which included prohibitions on regular beds, rather than massage table, and what the employees could wear. 

Since the adoption of the new rules, several employees of the businesses have been arrested and at least two licenses revoked by commissioners.

Forsyth County soon might not be the only municipality to have such an ordinance. Sheriff Ron Freeman said at the meeting he had discussions with the city of Cumming about a similar ordinance.

“I’ve spoken with the mayor, and I’ve spoken with some of the city councilmembers,” Freeman said. “They were awaiting the recommended changes.”

At a Cumming City Council work session on Feb. 6, Mayor Troy Brumbalow said the parlors were “a problem in the county” and “could be a problem in the city limits.”

“The county has a massage parlor ordinance,” he said. “They’re doing some tweaks to amend that ordinance, and [Freeman] asked if we would consider adopting the same ordinance and if we had any massage parlors in the city limits, they would conduct investigations to determine if anything inappropriate is going on. If there was, they would on their dime, so to speak, investigate it to help our Cumming PD.”

Brumbalow said the Cumming Police Department would then handle any violations.