Christiansburg proposes spa and massage business changes to combat prostitution

CHRISTIANSBURG, VA (WDBJ7) Christiansburg is holding a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss new ordinance proposals for spa and massage businesses.

A quick Google search shows there are over two dozen spa and massage businesses listed in Christiansburg. One of them is Mindful Massage and Yoga in the Cambria district.

"When people walk in, they're stressed, they're in pain, or both," owner and massage therapist, Sara Yun said.

Yun owns this studio and has been a licensed massage therapist for nearly 20 years. She opened her current location in March, only needing a regular business license to do so.

"I did have to present my license as a massage therapist to the town so that I could practice as a massage therapist," she explained.

However, one of the new ordinances would require therapists to not only be licensed in the state of Virginia, but also in the town of Christiansburg.

"We're trying to be proactive and be prepared just to better handle the growing industry," Andrew Warren, the assistant town manager said.

This change is sparked by a growing national trend of massage businesses being fronts for illegal activity like prostitution. The town is also proposing to rewrite the town's definition of prostitution to align with the state code.

"There are just more general terms so the local code be more specific," Warren said.

Though therapeutic businesses being used a fronts for prostitution isn't something Christiansburg has not had an issue with, the town says they're looking out for their current massage businesses.

"We are just trying to make sure that we keep integrity within the profession and that we support our local massage therapists that are licensed," Warren said. "We do want professionals that practice massage therapy to know that there is a high standard for doing that in the town and there is a high level of integrity among the profession."

Yun said she supports the ordinance change and even wants to take it a step further.

"I would actually probably add a little bit to the ordinance to make sure that the public, the client safety is being taken care of," she explained.

She encourages everyone to do their research when looking into massage therapy and to know the difference between a licensed massage business and a disreputable one.

"It's unfortunate that the massage industry has to tolerate some of these places existing," she said. "And that's why we have to elevate ourselves and have the utmost integrity in what we do as licensed professionals so that the public will know the difference between the two."

The public hearing is Tuesday, April 13 at 7 p.m. at the Christiansburg town hall. If the ordinances are approved they'll go into affect right away. New businesses will have to get the second license from the town, but already established businesses won't need to until it's time to renew their business license.