The City of Regina is one step closer to regulating where massage parlours can legally operate.
On Wednesday, the city’s priorities and planning committee voted in favour of restricting body massage parlours to industrial areas only. The city uses the term body rub to distinguish between massage parlours and therapeutic massage services.
In addition, anyone applying for a licence to operate a body rub parlour will need approval by both the planning committee and city council.
“We want to ensure public safety. And both council and the planning commission have said they are concerned about public safety in residential areas,” Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said.
According to the city, there are around 20 body rub parlours in Regina, with only two of them operating in industrial areas.
Coun. Andrew Stevens of Ward 3, spoke out against the new zoning amendment, citing safety concerns.
“Restricting it there defies the whole point of this policy objective … which is the balance of safety of workers in the industry as well as the communities in which they work and live,” Stevens said.
A city report said placing body rub parlours in industrial areas “does not support the safety of sex workers and their clients.” This is because it locates them in underpopulated and low traffic areas, with less lighting, fewer public transportation options and a reduced police presence after regular business hours.
By placing body rub parlous in industrial zones, it increases the isolation and negative social stigma of sex work, continued the report.
“This stuff is not easy, and I think there’s a balance between these moral arguments and actual risks and safety issues,” Stevens said. “Certainly people are victimized in the sex industry without question.”
With the majority of the city’s body rub parlours operating out of industrial areas, it’s unknown what will happen to those businesses.
However, Fougere said it’s premature to say what will and will not have to be closed as a result of the zoning regulation.
“First it has to go to council, and this could be amended again, so assuming things stay where they are, administration mentioned quite rightly that we will reevaluate existing operations to see if they are in compliance with the bylaw,” Fougere said.
On Wednesday, the committee also approved the implementation of a buffer zone for body rub parlours.
They must be at least one block away from schools, parks, daycare centres, enclosed rinks, public libraries, public community centres and cannabis stores.
Changes made by the committee will need to be approved by Regina city council to take effect. The amendments will be discussed at their Dec. 16 council meeting.