Councillor, community members looking to regulate where massage parlours can operate
Published Monday, January 10, 2011 11:25AM CST
It's not what goes on inside massage parlours that's the problem, it's the kind of activity that is drawn to the areas around them – the drug use, nudity, foul language and the sex trade, says Lawrence "Spatch" Mulhall, program manager of the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre.
He has been working near massage parlours in the West Broadway area for years and, recently, Mulhall has been working with Fort Rouge – East Fort Garry Councillor Jenny Gerbasi on a solution to the massage parlour problem.
"The community is having problems more for the activities spilling out around them," Gerbasi says.
Gerbasi wrote a motion that is going before a city council committee on Jan. 11. If passed, it would ask city staff to look into regulating where massage parlours can be located in Winnipeg. The city already regulates where pawn shops, adult video stores and cheque-cashing businesses can operate.
The idea is not to ban massage parlours – something that neither Mulhall nor Gerbasi want – it's just to keep them away from where kids should be able to go and be safe.
"It's not that we're against this service, it's just location," Mulhall says.
Gerbasi says she supports the licensing of massage parlours because it provides some control over "an activity that is probably going to go on anyway," and reduces harm connected with the business.
If massage parlours are regulated under the same zoning bylaw that regulates pawn shops and adult video stores there would be a community consultation involved in deciding where they could be located, Gerbasi says.
As for that area of West Broadway, there are too many services for youth in the area.
"It's just not where you put a massage parlour if you could choose," she says.
Mulhall says people at the neighbourhood centre have seen nudity in the windows of a massage parlour and people smoking crack in lanes in the area.
"We had one of our youth, about a year-and-a half ago, pulled into a doorway and propositioned for sex," Mulhall says, adding that he can't connect that incident directly to the massage parlours.
However, he says there are misunderstandings that occur because of the proximity of the massage parlours – for example, johns are drawn to massage parlours, prostitutes are drawn to the johns in their cars near the massage parlours and then women and youth who visit neighbourhood centre or live and work in the area are propositioned for sex, he says.
"It draws people connected to that trade into the area," Mulhall says.
He says a "high percentage of female staff" from businesses in the area have been propositioned near the massage parlours and some have been followed into nearby buildings by clients who think they're going into a massage parlour.
"They won't let adult video stores in certain neighbourhoods, they restrict pawn shops," Mulhall says. "Everyone knows what goes on in there, so why can't we restrict where they can be?"
Gerbasi says there is some political will behind the idea of the controlling where massage parlours can be located, especially among inner-city councillors and she believes the rest of the council will be willing to consider the issue as well.
If the plan goes ahead, it won't mean an immediate solution to the West Broadway problem. The existing establishments would have to be shut down and the community consultation process would only apply to another business owner trying to set up a new parlour in the area.
Winnipeg city hall will have some new councillors following the election on Oct. 27.