SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — In response to increased arrests for prostitution at massage parlors and a surge of applications for massage-related business licenses, the City Council on Tuesday imposed tougher regulations and a moratorium on new parlors.
The new ordinance will require all masseurs and masseuses applying for a business license to have five years of experience in the profession. It also will intensify background checks on prospective masseurs.
At the same time, the moratorium, which could last up to two years, would give the city time to come up with a new zoning ordinance regulating the location of massage businesses.
Although authorities say most of the massage operations in town are legal, the 16 prostitution cases investigated during the past 1 1/2 years have city officials concerned.
Since July 1994, the city has registered eight arrests for prostitution at massage parlors, up from zero during the year before. And during the last 18 months, the number of business licenses issued for masseurs and masseuses, and massage businesses, jumped from 14 to 56.
City Atty. Richard K. Denhalter said that during the moratorium, city officials will be monitoring similar developments in other cities, including Newport Beach. Last month, six massage businesses filed a lawsuit against that city, alleging that a 1994 law regulating their operations was an attempt to drive them out of business.