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City updates massage therapist requirements

COTTAGE GROVE — The city is upping education requirements for massage therapists in light of an increased number of applications.

The City Council voted 5-0 at the Oct. 3 meeting to approve a new ordinance requiring all massage therapists registering in the city to either have graduated from an accredited massage therapy school, pass the state test or pass national certification.

The previous city code — which has been on the books since 1971 — only requires 40 hours of massage therapy instruction.

Staff decided to update the code after seeing a major uptick in applications.

In 2010, there were 13 approved massage therapists in Cottage Grove, and the city now has 32. There have been a number to apply and not granted licensure as well.

There have also been a number of busts on massage parlors by the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force and other agencies that caused the city to take note.

One month ago, a White Bear Lake woman was arrested for trafficking women in Woodbury Wellness and a White Bear Lake storefront. More investigations are ongoing.

"We want to keep our community safe and law-abiding," council member Steve Dennis said. "... It's happening in adjacent communities, and we really don't want that happening here."

City Clerk Joe Fischbach told the council that there are about eight licensed massage therapists who own businesses in the city, and they employ an additional 16 massage therapists.

He estimated about half are not licensed.

Ramona Westerberg, owner of the Healing Place and massage therapist herself, said she's never employed anyone without the kinds of accreditations the city is now requiring.

"I think it's phenomenal, it's great," she said. "I'm very happy to see it come through."

Fischbach said no other massage therapy business owners contacted the city with negative feedback on the ordinance change.

Massage therapists must renew their licenses with the city at the end of every year. Since it is already close to Jan. 1, the city is pushing the date of full accreditation city-wide to Jan. 1, 2020.

Programs take a minimum of four to six months to complete, so the city is hoping that extension gives massage therapists a reasonable amount of time to secure a license.