It's no secret that human trafficking and prostitution rings have used massage parlors as cover for illicit activity. The City of Hollywood wants to get ahead of the trend and curb its growth by instituting new distance restrictions and requirements for massage parlors throughout the city, which has around 30 massage parlors operating now.
The city will hold a public hearing Wednesday afternoon on a proposed ordinance to amend zoning and land development regulations to establish distance separation and other regulatory requirements.
"Research has shown a connection between not-properly-licensed massage parlors and human trafficking," City of Hollywood's Director of Public Affairs Raelin Storey tells New Times. "We're putting in place regulations that require separation, as well as posted licenses on the place of business."
According to Storey, Florida has the third-most massage parlors in the U.S. This sudden influx of parlors and the multiple busts that happened, revealing many of them to be fronts for prostitution, are what initiated the amendment.
"A lot of parlors suddenly started coming in," Storey says. "We also saw that there are quite a lot of stats that show human trafficking's connection with massage parlors is a problem in Broward County and Florida as a whole."
If passed, the new requirements will establish a minimum distance of 2,500 between massage parlors, and limit massage parlors to just 3 percent of the city's businesses, maximum.
The ordinance unanimously passed its first reading in May, bringing its second required reading on Wednesday. Storey says the amendment has not met with any resistance from any commissioners or massage businesses.
None of the 30 parlors that have already been established will have to actually move, but the ordinance will require all current businesses to post their license, including the name and photo of the business owner and massage therapists, in a place where customers can see it.
"We imagine any illegally run parlor that speaks out against this amendment would be bringing unwanted attention to itself," she says.
There are exemptions for hotels or health-care facilities that hold 75 or more rooms in their facility.
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Commissioners are optimistic that the amendment will help the growing criminal activity usually found along Federal Highway, State Road 7, and Hollywood Boulevard.
"Our goal was to get ahead of it," Storey says, "to make sure Hollywood did not become a place attracting facilities that weren’t following the proper requirements."
The public reading is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. at City Commission Chambers, Room 219, on the second floor of Hollywood City Hall, located at 2600 Hollywood Blvd. If passed, a final vote would take place at the end of the month.