Local business owner questions Platte City's new massage therapy ordinance

Therapeutic massage therapists will tell you the art of their practice is to create a relaxing atmosphere, but a discussion on licensing such businesses at the most recent Platte City Board of Aldermen meeting turned out to be anything but relaxing.

The board voted 6-0 on Tuesday, May 24 to pass what many might deem a no-brainer type of ordinance — to remove massage therapy from the list of restricted adult-entertainment businesses under city code. However, certain restrictions were put in place for the practice, including a mandated requirement for a physician’s approval to treat patients in their home. 

The ordinance does allow massage clinics to have independent store fronts in Platte City.

Although the change addresses original concerns of Kirk Nelson, he expressed a new set of problems with the legislation at the board meeting. The ordinance includes additional fees and requires special permission to provide services at events, a restriction from providing services at events that may have alcoholic beverages and a restriction from filming inside of a massage clinic. 

Nelson, who operates Touchwork of Weston Massage Therapy in Weston, Mo. with his wife Julie Nelson, estimated that the financial burden for such requirements would be more than $1,000 annually for his business. DJ Gehrt, Platte City city administrator, said that the fees do not fall on massage therapists, rather the individuals hosting the event. 

Although event managers would have to note that their gathering would be allowing a massage therapist, Gehrt does not believe this step would hinder ability of therapists to provide services.

As for restricting massage services at events where alcohol is present, Gehrt expresses professional ethics concerns.

“Therapeutic massages are a medical procedure,” Gerht said, “and you can’t ethically perform such procedures when people are intoxicated.”

Kirk Nelson further voiced concerns that the board never consulted him for his expertise in massage therapy law, any other state-licensed therapists, any local healthcare providers or local businesses that use the Nelsons’ on-site services. He has helped other municipalities with ordinance language in the past and offered his assistance to Platte City, as well.

Gerht claims that that is not entirely true.

“We spoke with Kirk extensively when we were drafting this ordinance,” Gehrt said. “Regardless, we don’t allow those who are being regulated to write their regulations.”

Kirk Nelson said the city used ordinances from three nearby municipalities to help in the process but claims that two of the three involved outdated language and one was in direct violation of current state statute. Gehrt said the city would continue to take public input on the ordinance as written and would consider changing restrictions on in-home visits in the upcoming year if the board wanted to pursue those alterations.

The effort to repair the reputation of massage therapists in Platte City goes back years, but in May of 2015, Kirk Nelson approached the Platte City Planning and Zoning Commission with a request to change the ordinance. 

“I take professional and personal offense,” Kirk Nelson told the commission in 2015, “when somebody starts insinuating I’m a prostitute or my wife is a prostitute.”