The Oak Park Board of Trustees is poised to approve a new ordinance aimed at keeping illegal massage parlors – particularly those engaging in prostitution – out of the village.
The proposal was given first reading at a village board meeting earlier this month and will be voted on at a later date.
The proposed ordinance comes about a month after three Oak Park massage parlors were busted by police – two for engaging in prostitution and one for operating without a massage license.
Those three businesses – King Spa, 6441 W. North Ave., Angel Spa, 1102 Chicago Ave. and 6340 Roosevelt Rd. – were closed permanently by the village in late August, after Village Manage Cara Pavlicek declared them a public nuisance.
The arrests and closures left many asking why the businesses were given licenses to operate; one of the parlors, Angel Spa on Chicago, had not yet received a business license from the village.
The proposed ordinance requires owners to: prove that each massage therapist is licensed through the state; display service rates prominently; maintain records of dates and times of all massage services.
If approved, massage parlor owners also must have a clear glass façade "allowing for unobstructed view of the front customer area" and not display depictions "of services that would constitute a felony or misdemeanor."
The businesses also would be subjected to inspections twice a year.
Judith Alexander, a community organizer and chair of the North Avenue District, praised the ordinance but said in an email that it could be stronger.
"I would like the village to become more pro-active with regard to business licensing and zoning," Alexander wrote. "We are continually closing the barn door after the horse escapes. That is why North Avenue is plagued with negative uses including currency exchanges, day labor agencies, massage parlors, pawnshops, and payday/title loan stores. These are all prohibited or special uses under the new zoning code, but businesses of these types keep operating because they're grandfathered in."
She added that the village should deny businesses licenses to anyone who has violated the ordinance in other cities.
"As a matter of policy, I would like to see the village check regularly with neighboring communities and our own police department about business types that are creating problems elsewhere," Alexander said. "These businesses types should be subject to background checks prior to issuing business licenses."
* This story was corrected to note that the proposed ordinance is in first reading and will be voted on at a later date.
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