New Crystal Lake ordinance designed to root out illicit massage spas

Longtime business owner says measure creates more work, doesn't fix problem

CRYSTAL LAKE – City officials adopted a new ordinance they said aims to keep illegitimate massage businesses – the kind that get in trouble for prostitution – out of Crystal Lake.

But at least one longtime reputable massage establishment owner in Crystal Lake isn’t exactly loving the new ordinance.

“I appreciate the intention of the ordinance,” said Terri Latsch, owner of TLC Massage. “However, the requirements they’ve created have duplicated what we already have to do, and what a licensed massage therapist already does.”

According to city documents, creation of the ordinance was spurred by the fact that Crystal Lake police have charged people with prostitution at six different massage establishments in the city since December 2013. In 2017, police noticed potential code violations at some establishments, including possible
24-hour activity at one of them.

Some of the businesses closed, while others remain open, according to documents.

Current state law requires massage therapists to be licensed through the state. The legislation, however, allows local jurisdictions to license and regulate the massage establishments.

City officials wanted to take that step.

“Having the ability to regulate the establishment will give the city the authority to involve the business owner and potentially employ an administrative process to close their business in response to the illegal activity,” a city memo on the ordinance reads.

Owners of the faux massage businesses tend to move from town to town – the towns that don’t have stiff regulations – or they get rid of the people who got caught and bring in new ones, or new management, Latsch said.

Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Derek Hyrkas said the city’s research indicated that “communities that passed a similar ordinance witnessed a reduction in those unlawful activities the ordinance is meant to address. The decrease of unlawful activity would suggest the ordinance was effective in keeping potential illegitimate businesses from opening, or remaining open, in the communities.”

But Latsch, who has been in business since 1997, thinks there’s a loophole in Crystal Lake’s ordinance.

She said reputable massage business owners want the city to use the state law’s language aimed at preventing the kind of suggestive or illicit marketing and advertising that false massage businesses might use to gain customers.

“If [the city] would incorporate that, they would address the very issue that they’re trying to address,” Latsch said. “They would be able to follow through.”

The city stated on its memo that doing so might interfere with free speech rights, so the request was not accommodated.

That language appears to be working for Lake in the Hills.

Lake in the Hills Police Department communications coordinator Ashley Eccles said the department has found that since enacting a massage establishment ordinance in 2015, the rules “provided legitimate businesses opportunities in the village,” and it is “difficult for those engaged in illegal activities to meet the requirements.”

Eccles said Lake in the Hills has not had problems with massage establishments since 2015, aside from Mo Massage on Polaris Drive getting its license pulled in March 2017 for “suggestive or illicit” advertising.

Magic Spa, which wanted to open in the same location that Mo Massage did, had its license denied in September 2016 for violating the village’s advertising restrictions.

The village of Algonquin also has had an ordinance regarding massage establishments in place since 2011. It has a section about suggestive advertising.

“Having the ordinance in place does seem to deter the illegitimate massage businesses from attempting to move into the village, and it appears that we have had fewer complaints regarding possible illegal activity at the massage businesses since the ordinance was enacted,” Algonquin Deputy Police Chief of Operations Ryan Markham said in an email.

Crystal Lake community development director Michelle Rentzsch could not be reached for information about the ordinance.

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