Thumbs up for ordinance regulating Tampa’s ‘massage’ industry

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The City of Tampa took a step toward clamping down on illicit activity in some local massage parlors, spas, and lingerie modeling shops.

A proposed ordinance requiring spa permits, inspections and other regulations was unanimously supported by city council members at a public hearing.

“Mark Douglas’ “Storefronts for Sex” investigation is what sparked ‘Clean up Kennedy,'” said Joe Manson of the aforementioned group, which is working to rid Kennedy Blvd of bad actors.

Mark’s 8 On Your Side investigation exposed the city’s long tolerance of prostitution at some spas on Kennedy Blvd.

Licensed massage therapist Glen Kemp treats Olympic athletes. At a public hearing Thursday, he told the city council he’s concerned about more regulation.

“So when you’re regulating this thing, are you saying how I can and cannot treat someone as a trained experienced licensed health care provider?” asked Mr. Kemp. “That needs to be a concern.”

Sydney Eastman, an advocate for sex workers, told the councilmembers this ordinance has nothing to do with targeting human trafficking.

“This is simply a move by the rich white landowners to colonize more space in which people of color are prospering,” Ms. Eastman said.

Christa Hernandez, a victim of human trafficking, told the city council she favors the regulation.

“Most of the especially the Asian ones, they are not small mom and pop businesses, ” Ms. Hernandez explained. “They are brothels. That’s exactly what they are!”

Councilmember Mike Suarez disagrees with the assertion the ordinance is racist.

“Unfortunately one of the targets for people who traffic individuals is to get people who don’t know the language, don’t know the customs, don’t know the law,” said Mr. Suarez.

If passed, “bathhouses” must play by the city’s new rules or they won’t be able to play at all.

In January, councilmembers will hear this ordinance again, and vote on whether to adopt it.

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