Illinois is like most other places in the United States, with the government helping to regulate and ensure the professional quality of the massage therapists who live within its jurisdiction. Indeed, 40 of 50 states now have statewide regulations of their massage therapy industries, whose nationwide, annual income totals between $16 and $20 billion (1). It is therefore surprising and disappointing that the city recently decided to ban the opening of any new Chicago massage therapy businesses unless they have special permits and locate themselves in “industrial corridors” (2).
Fortunately, massage therapy businesses already licensed in the city of Chicago were “grandfathered in” and do not have to move from their current locations. But it seems unfair that new massage therapy businesses, whose therapists must operate under strict regulation by the state of Illinois with specific professional requirements (3), must relegate themselves to neighborhoods that feature used-car lots, taverns, liquor stores, and warehouses (2).
One of the more frustrating aspects of this new ordinance, which officially passed in June of this year (4), is that Chicago massage therapy professionals rallied to protest it when the ordinance first came up for a vote in April (5). Mainly due to the pressure of the massage therapy industry, the ordinance was tabled in April. But it eventually passed, without much fanfare or notice, despite the objections of the Chicago massage therapy industry and individual Chicago massage therapists (6).
What does all this mean? Unfortunately, on a philosophical level, it seems to mean that people still associate massage therapy with other industries that should be tucked away, out of sight and out of mind (thus the ordinance not banning new massage therapy businesses, but restricting them to certain areas of the city). This is maddeningly inconsistent considering massage therapy’s strict regulation by the state of Illinois.
From a practical standpoint, this ordinance is bad for the Chicago massage therapy industry specifically and business generally. Indeed, not only will new Chicago chair massage, corporate massage, and any other massage therapy business be forced to jump through extra hoops and set up shop in potentially undesirable areas, but it will also be difficult for established massage therapy businesses to change locations, as they would be subject to the new policy if they decided to move. This inconsistent and unfair grouping of a legitimate and regulated industry with other less-desired business will send the wrong message to other companies and industries who may fear similar treatment.