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Board Approves Deregulation of Massage Businesses

The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to deregulate the local massage industry.

Massage practitioners have been required to obtain county permits to perform massages and to operate a massage parlor in Arlington since the mid-1970s. At that time, massage parlors were often viewed as fronts for prostitution businesses.

That licensing process is now “superfluous,” according to county staff, because the Virginia Board of Nursing has been doing its own licensing for massage therapists since 1997. Plus, officials say, prostitution isn’t nearly as endemic as it once was in the massage industry.

“The whole field of massage has evolved and changed incredibly in the past couple of decades, such that there are a lot of very legitimate medical practitioners out there using massage for all kinds of health reasons,” Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier told ARLnow.com in September.

The Board agreed with county staff’s recommendation to do away with the massage licensing ordinance.

“This code is outdated, degrading and redundant,” Board member Jay Fisette said, adding that eliminating the ordinance would be an example of the Board following its New Years promise to break down some of “the barriers to small business.”

Before the Board’s vote last night, regulations required massage therapists to submit a form, a $50 fee, a massage school diploma or certificate, two passport size photos, a Virginia massage therapist certificate and an FBI record check including fingerprints. Now, message practitioners will only need a state license.

Arlington County Police will still investigate any accusation of prostitution activity related to a message business, county staff said.

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