New Ordinance Cracks Down on Illegitimate Massage Businesses

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Red Rose Spa at 4044 SE 14th St in Des Moines is just one of nearly 30 businesses in the metro that are listed on a questionable website we found, The website describes itself as a platform for providers offering body rubs and sensual massages to clients in major cities across the U.S.

"If you`re a licensed massage professional in our community, you need to have your license posted as you come in the front door," said At-Large City Council Member Chris Coleman. "And, if we go in and there's people working there that are not licensed that are performing any service that is covered under the state law, we`re gonna shut that business down."

Cassie Sampson is the owner of East Village Spa, and she's been very vocal on this issue.

"As a licensed massage therapist, since 2005, it is frustrating to see such an increase in these illegitimate businesses that are masquerading as massage practices," said Sampson.

Without singling out any businesses in particular, Sampson says the illegitimate massage businesses confuse the public about what legitimate massage therapists do as health providers.

"I feel like the influx of these businesses in our community does make it less safe for my colleagues, my employees, for me to be practicing," said Sampson. "Members of the public are just confused about what massage therapy means because they're using these phrases when it's not what they`re doing."

Police say the new ordinance will give authorities the tools they need to enforce the law and shut down the illegitimate places.

"Knowing something and having the probable cause to make an arrest are two different things," said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek. "So, we know, the neighbors know. It's not hard to spot it, you know. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck, but you can't just go arrest a duck for being a duck."

Note: The original version of this story said that the license that Shujing Sun showed to our cameras and was hanging on the wall at Red Rose Spa said it expired on March 15, 2018. While that is true, it has since been brought to our attention by the folks at Red Rose Spa, including someone who was there at the Spa, but claims he has no official affiliation with the spa and wants to remain anonymous, that Sun's license is still active. That person tells us he has since found the current paperwork and says it will be hung on the wall to replace the out of date paperwork. A check of the status of the license on the Iowa Department of Public Health's website shows that Sun's license is active and expires on 03/15/2020.

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