SF approves stronger penalties to crack down on illicit acts in massage parlors 

Stricter controls on The City’s massage parlors, including an outright ban on sex acts and a requirement that masseuses be clothed, are expected to be signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee.

A 2008 state law limits The City’s ability to regulate massage parlors that employ licensed masseuses. However, establishments that employ massage-givers without the state license — which may include victims of human trafficking forced into prostitution — are now subject to stricter controls under a law written by Supervisor Katy Tang.

There’s no official count on how many massage parlors exist in San Francisco, but there are “at least 30” businesses offering massage services in the Sunset district, according to Tang, who represents the area.

Sex acts are now punishable by a $1,000 fine and a 60-day suspension of a business permit, with repeat offenses liable to shut the operation down entirely. These penalties apply to the business owner, not the masseuse.

Prior city law recommended, rather than imposed, penalties on the owners of massage parlors where sex acts were for sale.

Despite repeated crackdown efforts, “brothels masquerading as massage parlors” continue to proliferate in San Francisco, according to the Golden Gate University Law Review — and parlors shut down for illegal activity may have already discovered a loophole.

A pair of Tenderloin massage parlors were shut down in 2008 with much fanfare by then-District Attorney Kamala Harris. Businesses offering the same services reopened at the same locations with a permit for a bathhouse instead of a massage parlor.

Some Sunset district massage parlors still offer sex acts, according to reviews on adult-services website MyRedbook.com.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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