Danbury Targets Massage Parlors, Spas Offering Prostitution

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The City of Danbury is seeking to crack down on massage parlors and spa therapy establishments that function as fronts for prostitution, an effort that has the City Council considering a proposed regulatory ordinance drafted by Cramer & Anderson Partner Dan Casagrande, who serves as outside Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to regulate the operation of massage establishments as an exercise of the City’s police power, in order to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the City. It is a purpose of Section 11-10 to impose licensing requirements to help prevent illegal massage, prostitution, and related sex crimes … ,” Lisa Michelle Morrissey, Danbury’s Director of Health and Human Services, said in a Feb. 21 memo to Mayor Mark Boughton and the City Council.

The language of the proposed ordinance, developed by Attorney Casagrande in conjunction with the health department and Danbury Police, pulls no punches in describing the magnitude of the problem being targeted: “ … the City Council finds that, for many massage establishments, the business in fact is sexual conduct or the facilitation of sexual conduct, rather than lawful massage therapy. Such establishments offer massage services as a subterfuge for prostitution, masturbation for hire, and other paid sexual contact, which are harmful to the public health, safety, and welfare.”

Read the Proposed Ordinance

“We are going after the wink-and-the-nod storefronts, especially in light of the trafficking that we’ve been seeing,” Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton told The News-Times in a story published March 12. “It is a problem that we are not going to tolerate in Danbury.”

“The solution is not to arrest the women—the solution is to go systemically against the owners,” Attorney Casagrande said in The News-Times story. “This would give police and the health department substantial regulatory authority to go after the systemic nature of the violations.”

Among the provisions of the proposed ordinance are these:

  • All employees and other persons on the premises, with the exception of customers receiving a massage from a state licensed massage therapist, shall be completely clothed … 
  • No customer receiving a massage from a state licensed massage therapist shall expose his or her genitals, pubic area, anus, or the areola or nipple of the female breast to another person on the premises of a massage establishment. …
  • No person shall knowingly or recklessly touch, manipulate, fondle, or handle in any manner the sexual organs, genital area, or anus of any other person on the premises of a massage therapy establishment. …
  • Massage therapy establishments and their employees shall ensure that storefront windows are not blocked by curtain, blinds, of any other· screening material during those times when the establishment is occupied by patrons or is open to the public. …

According to the proposed ordinance, any establishment failing to meet the requirements set forth may be issued a written notice of violation detailing the alleged failures and a date by which corrections must be made. At the end of that period, the Director of Health would reinspect the establishment to determine if the violation has been corrected, and in cases in which violations are determined not to have been corrected, “immediate action shall be taken to correct the violations, including but not limited to assessing fines, suspending or revoking the permit.”

In her memo to the City Council, the City’s Director of Health requested that an Ad Hoc Committee be formed to review the proposed ordinance concerning Massage and Spa Therapy Establishments, which was approved by the City Council at its March 5 meeting. Additionally, the City Council must hold a hearing before considering and voting on the proposed ordinance.

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Attorney Dan Casagrande

Partner Daniel E. Casagrande is a highly experienced attorney based in the firm’s Danbury office. His primary Practice Areas include Land Use & Environmental LawMunicipal Law, and Planning & Zoning Land Use issues. He has served as an outside Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Danbury from 1990 through the present.

Based in western Connecticut, Cramer & Anderson has a hometown sensibility, a strong regional presence, and a worldly outlook in Practice Areas extending from Personal Injury to Real Estate, Estate Planning, Divorce & Family Law, and much more. In addition to a flagship office on the Green in New Milford, the firm has offices in Danbury, Litchfield, Kent, Washington Depot, and a new office in Ridgefield, serving Fairfield County. For more information, see the website at crameranderson.com or call the New Milford office at (860) 355-2631.