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Body rub parlour operator objects to fee hike

Barbara Beaver, manager at the King Sherman Sauna on King Street East, told Hamilton councillors on Tuesday that the annual fee is too high. The license for a manager has gone from $307 to $1,235 in one year.

Another voice has come forward to speak about Hamilton’s new licensing fee for managers of body rub parlours.

Barbara Beaver, manager at the King Sherman Sauna on King Street East, told councillors on Tuesday that the annual fee is too high. The license for a manager has gone from $307 to $1,235 in one year.

"It’s almost 300 per cent," Beaver said after her presentation to the city planning committee. "It’s huge. It’s like putting aside $100 a month basically to work."

Beaver has worked as a manager at the parlour for about 10 years. A manager does "everything," she said, from staffing to scheduling to taking appointments. But it only pays slightly more than minimum wage, which is why the fee hurts, she said.

"I like my job," she said. "I like the people I work with. It’s become a very nice community. Ninety per cent of the ladies now actually go to school. This is basically their tuition money."

There are only two licensed body rub parlours in the city of Hamilton – King Sherman Sauna and the Garden of Eden on Kenilworth Avenue North. The Garden of Eden's license recently lapsed in the midst of a dispute with the city, but Hamilton’s licensing tribunal agreed to reinstate it last week with a list of conditions.

But officials estimate there could be dozens more underground parlours. The increased licensing fees – which includes an increase from $304 to $435 for a body rub attendant – was boosted to recover the city’s enforcement costs. This includes the cost of cracking down on illegal parlours, said Al Fletcher, Hamilton's acting manager of licensing and permits, in an interview with CBC Hamilton earlier this year.

Council will take another look at licensing fees in September. In the meantime, Beaver said, "I wanted to let them know we’re still here."

"(I wanted to) raise my hand and say you may not like us because you put us under the adult entertainment section, but we are a member of the community."

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