GUSTINE - A 45-day moratorium on approval of massage establishments will buy the city time to update its regulations on such businesses.

The City Council enacted the urgency moratorium at its July 2 meeting.

City Manager Doug Dunford said the city has received inquiries from parties interested in establishing a massage business in Gustine. But the city’s regulations which speak to massage establishments are far outdated in comparison to current standards, Dunford told the council.

“Anything coming in new stops until we figure out how to update our current municipal code,” he commented. “We want to make sure it is in the best interest for the safety and security of the citizens.”

The city has received two inquiries but no formal applications, Dunford told Mattos Newspapers.

“They were just calling and asking about our regulations, and we found they had not been updated in a while,” he explained.

Gustine’s zoning code currently allows massage establishments in any commercial zone, he noted, and the municipal code regulating such businesses dates back to 1966. State regulations surrounding the industry and certification of massage therapists have changed significantly since that time, Dunford reported.

Dunford said in a staff report that massage establishments warrant careful consideration and regulation due to the personal nature of the service, the potential for criminal activity and potential aesthetic impacts.

The 45-day ordinance will provide staff time to present an updated ordinance for council consideration, Dunford said. He told Mattos Newspapers that staff hopes to present a draft ordinance for consideration at its July 16 meeting.

City Council member Craig Turner questioned whether the action would impact businesses such as sports rehabilitation clinics and chiropractic practices.

That would not be the case, City Attorney Joshua Nelson responded, as those types of practices would not fall under the ordinances regulating massage establishments.

Council member Rich Ford pointed out that some salons in the city have offered massage services in the past by bringing in therapists.

The city has a number of tools at its disposal to regulate massage establishments.

Local codes can establish guidelines for facility location and conditions of operation, and the city also has the option to require that any massage therapists working in Gustine have a rigorous certification through an existing state program.

Council members voiced mixed opinions on the proposed moratorium.

“I just hate to be known again as turning businesses away,” stated Mayor Pat Nagy. “I don’t want bad businesses, but I don’t want to turn people away.”

He also questioned the city’s ability to update its codes in a timely manner.

“You know (how) that works. By the time we get things done it will be Christmas,” Nagy remarked.

On the other hand, council member Joe Oliveira said, “I don’t think we should rush into this.”

“There are a lot of unknowns out there,” council member Derek Alexander commented.

Nelson, the city attorney, cautioned that an updated ordinance should be framed from the perspective of assuming a worst-case scenario surrounding a massage establishment.

Gustine can turn to other cities for guidance in updating its applicable ordinances, he added.

“There really is some value in taking a look at what other cities are doing, particularly smaller cities,” Nelson told the council.

Four votes were required to immediately enact the urgency moratorium - and the council narrowly reached that threshold.

The council voted 4-1 to put the moratorium in place, with Turner dissenting.