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[whitespace] Town may manipulate current massage licensing regulations

Los Gatos--Town officials are getting ready to work through the knotty problems built into Los Gatos' current massage licensing laws.

The issue came to the Town Council on Sept. 20, when Andrew Fanelli read a letter on behalf of Carol Knop, owner of Abintra Electrolysis and Massage. Fanelli is a board member of the Los Gatos Union School District and a local martial arts instructor.

Five years ago, massage was still categorized solely under "adult entertainment" in the Los Gatos law book, a classification from days past when town fathers wanted to prevent prostitution from becoming big business. The law was amended in 1994, allowing massage therapists to obtain business licenses, but only if they worked under the immediate supervision of a licensed medical practitioner.

In the last five years, however, there has been a marked change in public perception of massage and other holistic healing practices, according to the letter Fanelli read. Local massage therapists think the laws should reflect this change in public perception.

Knop's letter said the goal of revising town massage laws is to separate prostitution from real massage. "Massage is a convenient coverup to hide illegal business activities, and real massage therapists get all the flak," she wrote.

While Knop said some cities have even more draconian massage regulations on the books, the effect outdated policies have on massage therapists is the same--many work without proper licenses.

To remedy this, Knop has come up with a list of licensing criteria the council could implement in place of the old law. Based on recommendations of various professional massage organizations, the proposed policy would require 500 hours of massage technique, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, ethics, pathology, hygiene and business practice from a state-certified school. As it currently stands, state certification has no relation to obtaining a business license for massage in Los Gatos.

The proposal would also require 25 hours a year of continuing education from an approved school and membership in a professional massage organization. There would be provisions protecting current practitioners who have not yet fulfilled these requirements, as well as a grace period for unlicensed massage therapists to complete the educational component.

Mayor Jan Hutchins, a certified massage therapist himself, asked that the item be placed on a future agenda. Hutchins visits Knop weekly for an "illegal" massage. He said a change should be enacted that ensures "massage therapists be respected for the work they do."

The mayor may have a personal stake in the issue as well. "When I get past my wage-slavery years," Hutchins half-jokingly told The Los Gatos Weekly Times, "I intend to do massage therapy and teach yoga in my dotage."
Nathan R. Huff

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Web extra to the October 7-13, 1999 issue of Metro.

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