Responding to a spate of prostitution arrests at Newport Beach massage parlors last month, the City Council has approved a 45-day emergency ban on new massage parlor permits, beginning immediately.
During the 45 days, the city will examine possible zoning and ordinance changes that could limit the spread of massage parlors and impose more stringent training requirements on massage technicians working in Newport Beach. On Thursday, City Atty. Robert Burnham is scheduled to meet with representatives of several parlors to discuss the possible changes.
Councilman Bill Agee, who cast the lone vote Monday against the moratorium, said stricter enforcement of existing laws, not harassment of legitimate massage parlors, is the key to fighting prostitution in Newport Beach. "If you've got a prostitution problem, you get prostitution convictions," he said.
Agee said that with more spas and health clubs adding massage to their lists of services, massage has become "a legitimate part of society." Laws that restrict such legitimate operations would be unfair to both the businesses and customers, he said.
Newport Beach has 32 massage parlors, and permits for five more are under consideration. During an undercover sweep of massage parlors in March, police arrested about a dozen people on prostitution charges. Several arrests were made at parlors in the vicinity of John Wayne Airport, which, according to police, has Newport Beach's largest concentration of massage parlors.