Special permit couldn’t stop illegal massage business in East Longmeadow

Few towns in Massachusetts make massage therapist facilities obtain a special permit to operate

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP) – Stopping illegal massage parlors from opening isn’t always easy.

After an illegal massage parlor was raided in East Longmeadow in 2009 and 2011, the town voted to have all massage therapist establishments apply for a special permit. The town planning board did deny some permits, but allowed what turned out to be another illegal massage parlor to open, at the same location as the previous raids.

“Our name just gets kind of slander by all this illegal activity happening,” said Ari Boyajian, owner of Escape Therapeutic Massage.

East Longmeadow is one of a few towns in Massachusetts that make massage therapist facilities obtain a special permit to operate.

“As a whole as businesses, whether it’s restaurants, massage therapists, medical marijuana, we look at the use, the locations where it’s going, we want to make sure that everything goes into the right locations,” said Ralph Page, Chairman of the East Longmeadow Planning Board.

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Boyajian told 22News she feels having to get a special permit singles out legitimate massage therapists and the permit process didn’t do what it was supposed to do. “I would love for them (the town) to be able to maybe weed out the special people that are coming here to practice illegal activities, but portraying themselves as massage therapists or any type of body worker.”

After similar raids at the same location, Korean Massage Therapy was denied a special permit in 2013 after arrests were made there on two previous occasions.  A year later, the planning board approved Feng Health Center under different management.  In December 2015, Feng Health Center shut down after a police raid.

(Do these permits help weed out some of the illegal industry versus the legal industry?) “When someone comes in for a special permit, such as a massage therapist, we look at their licensing, we make sure the state has licensed the salon, we make sure the massage therapists are licensed,” said Page.

Police made human trafficking arrests at Feng Health Center on North Main Street in December.  The town revoked its special permit in January.