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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

A License to Touch?

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - A self-described "relaxation studio" has sued Utah over a new massage law that requires a license to administer treatments like the "island breeze," "pleasure cruise" and "wave of euphoria."

Zen Healing Arts, operating as Beaches Bodyworks, says that the state commerce and licensing departments approved a "nonsensical" addition to the Utah Massage Therapy Practice Act without hearing its grievances.

The Massage Therapy Practice Act Rule, which was proposed and enacted last month, added the term "manipulation" to the massage law and requires that any person-to-person "contact with movement, including touching the clothed or unclothed body" be done by a licensed professional.

"The rule greatly expands what may be considered a 'massage,'" according to the complaint filed in Salt Lake County's Third Judicial District.

Beaches Bodyworks says it operates a county-licensed "relaxation studio."

"Treatments administered by plaintiff include various spiritual healing arts that date back many centuries," according to the complaint. "This involves touching the skin to create energy, and to direct energy to various parts of the body."

"Treatment does not involve therapeutic massage, and every customer is required to sign a consent form acknowledging that they understand that they are not receiving a massage," the studio says. "Treatments may include the art of Reiki, which may include touching as a relaxation and healing technique. Massage techniques of 'systematic manipulation' are not included."

As defined by Utah code, "'massage' must be 'systematic,' and must be part of an overall treatment akin to physical therapy," the complaint states.

Beaches Bodyworks says it requested a formal hearing on the change, but the state agencies ignored it.

"The notice stated that the new rule would go into effect on or about Jan. 24, 2010, unless at least 10 individuals or an association with more than 10 members asked for a formal hearing," according to the complaint.

"Despite the terms of the notice, and the requests, defendants adopted the additional rule, to be effective on Jan. 26, 2012, without an opportunity for plaintiff and others to be heard," the complaint also states.

Beaches Bodyworks demands an injunction to prevent "irreparable harm" from the rule, which it describes as "hopelessly vague as it is nonsensical in its attempts to prohibit all touching."

"The use of this statute and this rule to prevent all touching of one person by another without a professional license is arbitrary, capricious, and violates the general rule that legislation and regulations must have a 'rational basis,'" Beaches Bodyworks says.

Beaches Bodyworks' website advertises "relaxation specialists" for hire, each woman posing in a bikini near the Great Salt Lake.

A combination of aromatherapy, energy work "and other timeless arts" are available in 30-, 60- and 90-minute packages, known as "island breeze," "pleasure cruise" and "wave of euphoria."

"Bodywork is not massage," the site also states, though the company does advertise itself as a "professional licensed spa."

The plaintiff says enforcement of Utah's law would violate the 14th Amendment and the Utah Constitution.

It is represented by W. Andrew McCullough of Midvale.

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