’Massage Parlor’ ordinance up for vote

Proposal would allow city to yank license of any business found to be in violation of law

Updated August 26, 2021, at 6:27AM: Changes “found” to “believed” in lead for clarity.

MANDEVILLE — The City Council will vote tonight (August 26th) to empower the city to revoke the licenses of businesses — including massage parlors — that are believed to be in violation of city, state or federal law.

Ordinance No. 21-26, introduced by District I Councilwoman Rebecca Bush, would alter the Mandeville City Code of Ordinances Section 14-10, which is used to regulate the issuance and renewal of annual licenses to conduct business.

Currently, the city can only deny the application for a license or refuse to renew one if the city has “reasonable grounds to believe” the applicant or business is in violation of a law. With just seven words, revocation action will be added to the teeth of the law.

The proposed change was prompted by a recent controversy surrounding two now-closed massage parlors that were operating inside Mandeville city limits, when an undercover sting operation by law enforcement netted an arrest at one of those establishments.

A 52-year-old employee was booked on one count of prostitution by massage along with license violations. She was later released on $1,000 bond. The “OBH Massage Therapy” — the establishment where she worked — later closed when it was evicted by its landlord, but concerned citizens were frustrated that the arrest itself did nothing to close the business. The city was powerless to act.

But that would change if the City Council adopts the measure Thursday, in effect rewriting Section 14-10 to read as follows, adding the bolded text:

The tax collector of the City of Mandeville or his duly authorized assistants may refuse to issue or renew a license or revoke a license whenever the tax collector or authorized assistant has reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant for the license or the license holder is conducting the trade, business, profession, vocation or calling for which the license is sought in violation of any law of the United States of America or the State of Louisiana or in violation of any ordinances or regulations of the City of Mandeville.

Michele Avery, president of Beau West Homeowner Association, told Mandeville Daily “this is a good first step” because neither of the two massage parlors in question were properly licensed with the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy.

Avery had been pushing for months to get law enforcement agencies to investigate the establishments in question — ones that she and other activists allege were “operating outside of the law and in plain sight.”

Avery added, “This ordinance would give the City the ability to revoke their occupational license if they are not properly licensed… However, keeping this form of sex trafficking out of Mandeville will require a partnership of active citizens, law enforcement, code enforcement and landlords that are not willing to lease to these types of establishments.”

The City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 26th, at 6 p.m. at the Paul Spitzfaden Community Center in Mandeville.

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