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Palo Alto won't ask for massage-client info

City reconsiders earlier proposal to require massage establishments to keep client records for criminal investigations

Palo Alto's new massage ordinance will not require businesses to keep detailed client logs for possible use during criminal investigations, Interim City Attorney Donald Larkin said Thursday.

The city is revising its massage ordinance to bring local businesses in compliance with Senate Bill 731, which requires massage establishments to get certification. The main objective of the new ordinance is to allow massage businesses with a sole proprietor to get certification. Under the current ordinance, a "massage establishment" by definition has "more than one massage technician."

But the proposed revisions, which were unveiled at a public meeting last week, also included a provision requiring all massage establishments and sole proprietors to keep a written log detailing the date and hour of each service; the name, address and sex of each patron; the service provided and the name of the person administering the service. Police said the provision was intended to protect clients and technicians during possible criminal investigation.

At the April 5 meeting, several local massage therapists criticized the new provision as too intrusive. Larkin said that the next draft of the ordinance would not contain this provision.

He said the city inserted the provision into the draft ordinance after looking at massage ordinances in other cities, many of which have similar record-keeping regulations. He said Palo Alto could still include some language in the new ordinance requiring massage establishments to keep track of their clients. But the city would not ask businesses to provide this information without a search warrant.

Larkin said the city would hold more meetings with stakeholders in the coming months and further refine the ordinance. The proposed ordinance would then be submitted to the City Council and be approved after a public hearing.

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