Clovis massage therapists will be allowed to receive state certification instead of going through a city-organized testing program under an ordinance approved Monday night.
Providing the option is a formality -- the state Legislature approved it for all massage therapists statewide last year -- but in Clovis it has special meaning because of longstanding concerns about massage businesses.
For years, some in the community had complained about prostitution at such businesses, and two years ago Clovis adopted rules that required massage therapists to submit to written tests to ensure that they are reputable.
As the council voted Monday on the new state-certification option, Clovis officials emphasized that the city will not give up its right to oversee the businesses.
Clovis police Lt. Vince Leonardo said the city still can require massage therapists to obtain business licenses, and to comply with local health, safety and zoning codes.
Clovis has about 170 certified massage therapists, Leonardo said. No massage therapists spoke on the issue Monday night.
Under the rules adopted two years ago, therapists must complete a recognized massage-school course and show proof upon passing a written test.
The city worked with business owners on the 2007 rules for two years to ensure that new regulations would not be too stringent while allowing the city to weed out owners who may offer illegal services, such as prostitution.
Those rules were generated after Clovis police raided massage establishments in 2003 and 2004. Clovis police arrested six women on prostitution charges at three massage businesses.
Clovis massage therapists worked with the city to create a written test for new operators.
The ordinance approved Monday goes into effect in February.
The state certification still allows police to investigate allegations of illegal practices, Leonardo said.