SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island town wants stricter regulations on massage establishments.
But some say the attempt at closing down spas that promote sex work is penalizing and discriminating against lawful, licensed businesses, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Monday.
There are 15 legitimate, licensed and regulated massage businesses in Smithtown. Owners and employees are professionally trained in the ancient craft of manipulating soft tissues on the body to relieve stress or pain.
“Here I am, a licensed massage therapist, spending $26,000 on my education. I am a medical professional, and I have to prove I’m not a prostitute,” said Kristin Bamonte, who works at Path of Wellness.
Bamonte is among those crying discrimination and invasion of privacy. Council members are proposing a bill intended to weed out establishments connected to the sex trade. More than a dozen foot massage spas that recently opened in the area were investigated by Suffolk police. Five were closed due to illegal activity and the Department of Homeland Security recently banded with the county’s new Human Trafficking Task Force.
“The folks were being bused in minivans. They were predominantly coming from Queens. The rent in comparison to the city is cheaper. There wasn’t a lot of oversight,” Smithtown Councilman Thomas Lohmann said.
The town would like to charge yearly licensing fees over and above state costs, and require owners to provide names, home addresses, photo IDs of their employees, references, and allow periodic inspections.
“Registering our employees with the town is a little insulting, demeaning to us, grouping us together as criminals and sex workers. That’s what we aren’t. We’re professionals,” said Happie Pomisel, a licensed therapist at Moonshadow Massage.
The American Massage Therapy Association said the town is overstepping its licensing rights. Smithtown lawmakers claim the bill is designed only to registered businesses.
So massage therapists are challenging the town to make all businesses — such as plumbers and contractors — register their employees, too.
The public hearing is scheduled for March 3.