Massage provider accuses Lauzon of profiling
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Brian Millard and his wife own this business offering Chinese massage on South Main Street in Barre.
BARRE — A downtown business owner says he isn’t happy at being singled out as the motivation for Mayor Thomas Lauzon’s attempt to crack down on local massage providers.
At a recent City Council meeting Lauzon offered a 10-page draft ordinance requiring that anyone who engages in “massage, bodywork, and somatic therapy” in the city must provide detailed personal information and get licensed or face potential fines or jail time.
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday.
Lauzon said he is concerned that the closure of prostitution rings doubling as massage parlors in Chittenden County and Brattleboro could lead those involved in sex trafficking to move their businesses to Barre. Lauzon said last month he was particularly concerned when he saw a sign advertising “Chinese Massage” pop up on South Main Street at the beginning of July.
Brian Millard started that business with his wife, Xiu Zhen Bai. Millard said that since Lauzon has gone to the media mentioning their establishment in the same breath as the prostitution centers, business has plummeted.
“It’s had an immediate impact on the business, which has gone to nothing,” he said, adding it’s also had an emotional impact on him and his wife.
Millard said he is furious that Lauzon is discriminating against a legitimate Asian business that went through the permit process with the city, simply because the word “Chinese” is on the sign. He said that even though the draft ordinance does not specify a type of massage it is targeting or make reference to the Asian community, it was sparked by the crackdown on massage parlors that allegedly used Asian women as sex workers, and it was an Asian massage parlor in Barre that piqued Lauzon’s interest.
“There’s no question that someone with even a limited education can’t draw their own conclusions from that presentation,” Millard said.
He said Lauzon never contacted him to see if his business was legitimate or whether Millard’s wife was in the country legally, adding that she has had permanent resident status since coming to the country in 2012.
“She’s done nothing wrong. ... And it’s not up to us to prove that she’s done (nothing) wrong because there is no accusation other than innuendo of connections because she is Chinese,” he said.
Millard said he has been in contact with the American Civil Liberties Union as well as U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office about the proposed ordinance.
“As of yet, the federal government can’t find any fault with this (ordinance). But I can assure you they are looking,” he said.
Millard is far from alone in asserting a legitimate role for bodywork.
Peter Youngbaer, the executive director of the People’s Health and Wellness Clinic, has asked the City Council and the mayor that his clinic be exempt if the ordinance is put in place.
Youngbaer said the clinic, which sits a couple hundred feet from the police station on North Main Street, has been doing bodywork for 19 years. He said it can include services such as those offered by chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists.
He had some concerns about the ordinance.
“It’s a solution looking for a problem,” Youngbaer said.
He said police have investigative powers to handle situations where people are allegedly performing sex acts at massage parlors.
“I’m not sure that it’s going to do anything except be an annoyance,” Youngbaer said.
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