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Proposed new rules aired for massage parlors in Forsyth County

FORSYTH COUNTY — Forsyth County’s proposed crackdown on illegal activities at massage parlors has some legal practitioners worried they’re being mischaracterized.

“Massage therapy is indeed health care and should be considered as such,” Carrie Sedgeman told the county commission during a public hearing on the matter Thursday.

“To characterize it as adult entertainment is an unfair, or what I would consider to be an unprofessional, characterization.”

Thursday marked the first of two public hearings on the proposed new licensing rules for massage parlors and their employees in an effort to crackdown on illegal activities, notably prostitution.

“It sets up a framework of permitting massage and spa establishments by way of an annual license,” explained County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

“It also sets up a framework where, for those individuals at such establishments who are not licensed massage therapists with the state, there is a requirement for an employee work permit.”

Jarrard said he had been working with lawyers in the massage industry to help with the code change.

In addition, under the new rules, beds would be banned, all employees would  be required to be clothed and the businesses could not have anyone in the building between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Citing ongoing prostitution investigations, Sheriff Duane Piper previously told the commission he was aware of some local businesses that would fall under the category.

“This will help greatly,” Piper said. “There’s been an influx. Other jurisdictions are adopting tougher ordinances and permitting and licensing type of things.

No one spoke in favor of the measure during the public hearing Thursday, but several involved in the massage industry shared some concerns with it.

“We generally favor the provision. We believe there is a need to regulate and eliminate the shady characters in the business,” said James Wolf, owner of LaVida Massage of Cumming.

However, Wolf went on to note that the requirement of being licensed at the time of hire wasn’t practical in business.

“We do take exception with the fact that permits need to be in place at the time of hire,” he said. “For all practical matters, we do have [employees] who start and do not make it very long or we do need to start on short notice.”

Earlier in the meeting, Jarrard said massage parlors do fall under the adult entertainment designation.

“This would be ordinance that fits under the county’s adult entertainment ordinance, but it speaks to something that is somewhat different. That’s just where it would go in the county’s code.”

The commission is scheduled to hold the second public hearing Oct. 1, after which it could adopt the changes.