We are extremely serious about ensuring that all massage establishments comply with the City's Massage Ordinance and state law. The ordinance is intended to protect the public health, safety and welfare by:
- Ensuring orderly regulation of massage therapy services
- Providing minimum sanitation and operational standards
- Requiring minimum qualifications for practitioners and owners
- Preventing the misuse of massage therapy as a front for prostitution and related activities
Violations of the City's Massage Ordinance are aggressively prosecuted and can lead to fines, revocation of an establishment's Massage Certificate, and a one year ban preventing the property owner/landlord from renting to any massage or massage-related business.
Since the inception of the program, the City has been involved in the closure of 16 establishments and suspension of 1 establishment that repeatedly violated the City’s Massage Ordinance.
Scope of Authority
The current City Massage Ordinance is designed as an administrative process implemented by Code Enforcement staff. The scope of the City’s regulatory authority is defined by the requirements of the current Ordinance SRMC 10.90:
All massage businesses are required to comply with the Ordinance, starting with the registration process. It is illegal to operate a Massage establishment or practice massage in the City of San Rafael without a Certified Massage Establishment Certificate or Operator Permit from the City. There are severe penalties for violation of this requirement.
Who needs to Register?
All massage establishments in San Rafael are required to register as one of the following:
- A Certified Massage Establishment
- Apply for this if the business owner(s) is a Certified Massage Therapist through the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC)
- A Non-Certified Massage Establishment
- Apply for this if the business owner(s) is NOT a Certified Massage Therapist through the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC)
For any new massage establishment, or for changes to the ownership or location of an already registered business, the business owner must apply as a new Certified or Non-Certified Massage establishment.
Note that the we register and regulate massage establishments, not the individual massage practitioners. Individual practitioners are registered and regulated by the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) and all employees working at either a Certified or Non-Certified Massage establishment are required to have a valid certification through the CAMTC.
Are you a business owner is applying as a Non-Certified Massage Establishment? You will also need to be digitally fingerprinted through the 'Live Scan' process at the Marin County Sheriff's Office. The applicant is responsible for all costs associated with the Live Scan including any Sheriff’s Department fees. The Live Scan Application as well as information on location and times can be found here:
Live Scan Application
Live Scan FAQ
Once the Live Scan is process is completed the application will be sent to the Department of Justice and the FBI for review. After the results are returned to the City of San Rafael Police Department, the Massage Inspection staff will follow up with the applicant to complete the certification process.
Is There a Fee?
For new applications or change in ownership or location:
- Certified Massage Establishment: $247.50
- Non-Certified Massage Establishment (Operator Permit): $350.00 for each business owner. Please note that there are additional fees (Non-Certified Massage Establishments only) for the Live Scan service. The County Sheriff's Office requires a fee of approximately $20 plus the fees required for review by the Department of Justice and the FBI. These fees are not established by the City of San Rafael; please check with the County Sheriff's office for exact amounts.
Live Scan Application
Live Scan FAQ
- Sole Proprietor: $62.50
For renewals for existing massage establishments (no change to existing business owners or location):
- Certified Massage Establishment: $123.75
- Non-Certified Massage Establishment (Operator Permit): $175 fee for each business owner.
- Sole Proprietor: $62.50
For Change to employees for registered Certified Massage Establishment or Non-Certified Massage Establishments (Operator Permit):
- Certified Massage Establishment: $25 for each employee or Certified Massage Practitioner to add to the business registration.
- Non-Certified Massage Establishment: $25 for each employee or Certified Massage Practitioner to add to the business registration.
How Long is a Certificate or Permit Good For?
Both Certified Massage Certificate and Non-Certified Massage Certificate (Operator Permits) are valid for 1 year from the date of issuance. Operation as a Certified or Non-Certified Massage Establishment requires compliance with all rules and regulations contained in the City’s Massage Ordinance.
Additional Information About Employees
- All employees performing massage at an establishment in the City of San Rafael must have a valid CAMTC license. The original license must be worn at all times by the employee.
- The employee’s CAMTC license will be reviewed to ensure it is valid at the time of application of Certified Massage Establishment Certificate/Operator Permit. All approved employees will be listed on the back of the Certified Massage Establishment Certificate/Operator Permit.
- If during any inspection an employee or person is found performing massage or in the massage establishment and is not listed on the Certified Massage Establishment Certificate/ Operator Permit, that is a violation of the Ordinance and a citation will be issued.
- If employees are hired after the Certified Massage Establishment Certificate/Operator Permit is issued, the business owner must apply to amend the Certificate or Operator Permit. All new employees’ CAMTC licenses will be checked and all new employees will be listed on the back of the Certified Massage Establishment Certificate/ Operator Permit.
- There is a fee to add employees or certified massage practitioners to the registration of the business of $25 per employee.
- A copy of the form to modify the list of employees at the establishment can be found here: Application for Change to Certified Massage Practitioners
The City inspectors have the right to enter any massage establishment during regular business hours, without a search or inspection warrant, to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Ordinance.
Based on the updated Massage Ordinance, the front door of all massage establishments must remain open and unlocked during business hours. The only exception to this requirement is if the massage establishment is a sole proprietorship, meaning the business owner is the only employee.
On state certified massage therapists are allowed in any area of the massage business that is past the front reception area.
- The City will continue to do routine and random inspections of establishments to ensure compliance with the operating standards in the Massage Ordinance. The operational requirements for all massage establishments include:
- Operational Requirements
- Physical Facility and Building and Fire Code Requirements
- Health and safety requirements
- Attire and Physical Hygiene Requirement
- The details of the required operational standards can be found in SRMC 10.90.090:
- Inspection results will be provided at the conclusion of each inspection. If violations are noted during an inspection, a citation with a fine may be issued. If a citation is issued, the citation will be mailed to the business within a few days.
- As noted above, violations may result in the issuance of citations with fines. In cases of repeated violations of the City’s Ordinance, the City will pursue revocation of the Massage Certificate/Operator Permit and will seek to close the business. The City can also seek a one year ban on the property owner/landlord from renting to another massage or massage-related business.
How to Pay Fines?
Fines can be paid by mail with a personal check, cashier’s check or money order.
Please include the copy of the citation labeled “Return with Payment” and write the citation number on the check.
Send fines to: City of San Rafael, Administrative Services Department-Citations, 1400 5th Ave., 3rd floor, San Rafael, CA 94901
The back of the citation has more information about payment of fines including late fees, interest charges and collections. It also has information about how to contest (appeal) a citation if you choose to do so. To appeal a citation, you must do so, within 30 days of it's issuance, you must pay the citation amount as a deposit, and submit a letter or the form detailing the reasons for the appeal.
In 2008, the State of California passed SB 731 which regulates all massage therapy businesses and practitioners. At the same time, the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) was created to provide training and certification for the industry. All massage businesses and practitioners must be certified through this agency (CAMTC) before they are allowed to practice their profession. As a regulatory agency, the City of San Rafael uses the CAMTC database to verify information provided by local massage therapy businesses.
In 2010 the City of San Rafael updated its Massage Ordinance, incorporating the new State law, creating operational requirements for all establishments, and requiring everyone practicing massage therapy within the City of San Rafael to be a Certified Massage Practitioner or Therapist.
Since October 2013, the City has been registering establishments, conducting inspections, and issuing citations for violations of the Ordinance. The City of San Rafael is grateful to the establishments that are operating in full compliance with the Ordinance and urges them to continue to follow the regulations. However, many massage establishments have been cited for violation of one or more sections of the Ordinance. In extreme cases of numerous and significant violations, the City has pursued revocation of an establishment’s business license and forced them to close.
In June of 2014, after reviewing the inspection and registration results, the City found that a significant number of establishments were in violation of the Ordinance. Therefore, the City has elected to continue and expand the program, increasing the number of inspectors.
On Monday, December 1, 2014, the San Rafael City Council adopted Ordinance 1927 amending the City's Massage Ordinance. The revised massage ordinance became effective on Friday, January 16, 2015.
The amendments adopted were text amendments to SRMC Title 10.90 (Massage Therapy to reflect: 1) Changes to state law related to Massage Therapy through the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 1147, signed into law on September 18, 2014 and set to become effective on January 1, 2015; and 2) clean up, modification and clarification of ordinance provisions related to registration, inspections, operational standards and revocation process.
As of January 16, 2015, the City will be enforcing the updated ordinance, which has been codified into SRMC 10.90.
The moratorium on new establishments was terminated by the City Council at their October 5, 2015 meeting. Therefore, all the prior rules and regulations that were in effect before the moratorium are still in place.
Municipal Code Sections
Application Requirements for Certified Massage Establishments: SRMC 10.90.060
Application Requirements for Non-Certified Massage Establishments: SRMC 10.90.070
Exemption to the Massage Ordinance: SRMC 10.90.150
Operational Standards: SRMC 10.90.090
Full Text of San Rafael Municipal Code for Massage Therapy: SRMC Section 10.90