One of the most common things I hear from people after taking my 10 Hour Florida Massage Law and Rules Course is:
Now I have to get a massage establishment license too?
Most likely, yes.
A massage establishment license is required for any business (spa, chiropractor [see the new exception below], home business, etc) that offers massage therapy services.
Here are what the Law and Rules say on the subject:
480.046 F.S. Grounds for disciplinary action by the board…
(o) Practicing massage at a site, location, or place which is not duly licensed as a massage establishment, except that a massage therapist, as provided by rules adopted by the board, may provide massage services, excluding colonic irrigation, at the residence of a client, at the office of the client, at a sports event, at a convention, or at a trade show.
64B7 30.001 F.A.C.
(3) Offering massage therapy at a sports event, convention or trade show without obtaining the written approval of the owner or property manager of the site at which the sports event, convention or trade show is held.
In general, if a client comes to you, you need an establishment license. If you go to your client (i.e. a mobile business), you do not need an establishment license. Again, this is a generalization; exceptions do exist.
A massage therapist license is indicated by the prefix “MA” (Ivy Hultquist, L.M.T. MA66325).
A massage establishment license is indicated by the prefix “MM”.
Who should obtain the establishment license?
If you are an employee, the owners of the business will need to purchase this license, not the massage practitioner. Massage practitioners should always verify that their place of business holds a valid establishment license. If an establishment is found without a valid license, it is typically the practitioner that is penalized the most, not the establishment.
If you are in a renting situation, either the landlord or the massage practitioner may purchase the establishment license. An establishment license is owner specific so if the license is filed in the therapist’s name and the therapist leaves, she/he may take that establishment license to a new location. If the establishment license is in the name of the landlord then the license will remain at the facility (chiro, salon, etc..) if the therapist leaves.
How long does it take to get my establishment license approved?
Most people report that it takes about 1-1/2 to 2 weeks to receive notification that their application was received and reviewed.
It then takes about another week to complete the reviewing process and approve your application.
After the application is approved, you can make an appointment with the health inspector (after you have everything ready).
The inspector may call before they show up for the inspection, but this is not required. When they do arrive for your inspection, everything on the checklist should be ready as if you are going to open the next business day. Be ready. If you are not ready, you can always ask to delay the inspection.
I would estimate this process can take anywhere from 3-6 weeks depending on how quickly you want or can be inspected. It can take longer though, much longer. Please prepare ahead of time so that you can open your business and lessen the time you are without income.
What are the inspectors looking for?
They are looking to make sure you are compliant with 64B726.003. I have copied this rule below. 64B726.003 Massage Establishment Operations.
- Facilities, Each establishment shall meet the following facility requirements:
- Comply with all local building code requirements.
- Provide for the use of clients a bathroom with at least one toilet and one sink with running water. Such facilities shall be equipped with toilet tissue, soap dispenser with soap or other hand cleaning materials, sanitary towels or another hand-drying device such as a wall-mounted electric blow dryer, and waste receptacle.
- Maintain toilet facilities in a common area of the establishment. Establishments located in buildings housing multiple businesses under one roof such as arcades, shopping malls, terminals, hotels, etc., may substitute centralized toilet facilities. Such central facilities shall be within three hundred (300) feet of the massage establishment.
- If equipped with a whirlpool bath, sauna, steam cabinet and/or steam room, maintain clean shower facilities on the premises.
- A licensed massage therapist must be on the premises of the establishment if a client is in a treatment room for the purpose of receiving massage therapy.
- Provide for safe and unobstructed human passage in the public areas of the premises; provide for removal of garbage and refuse; and provide for safe storage or removal of flammable materials.
- Maintain a fire extinguisher in good working condition on the premises. As used herein “good working condition” means meeting the standards for approval by the State Fire Marshal. Such standards are presently contained in Chapter 69A21, F.A.C.
- Exterminate all vermin, insects, termites, and rodents on the premises.
Maintain all equipment used to perform massage services on the premises in a safe and sanitary condition, including the regular application of cleansers and bactericidal agents to the massage table.
Unless clean sheets, towels, or other coverings are used to cover the massage table for each client, “regular application,” as used herein, means after the massage of each client.
If clean coverings are used for each client, then “regular application” shall mean at least one time a day and also whenever oils or other substances visibly accumulate on the massage table surface.
- Maintain a sufficient supply of clean drapes for the purpose of draping each client while the client is being massaged, and launder before reuse all materials furnished for the personal use of the client, such as drapes, towels and linens. As used herein “drapes” means towels, gowns, or sheets.
- Maintain lavatories for hand cleansing and/or a chemical germicidal designed to disinfect and cleanse hands without the use of a lavatory in the treatment room itself or within 20 feet of the treatment area.
- Maintain all bathroom and shower facilities and fixtures in good repair, well-lighted and ventilated.
- Each establishment shall maintain property damage and bodily injury liability insurance coverage. The original or a copy of such policy shall be available on the premises of the establishment.
Fingerprinting and Background Check
As of July 1st, 2014, new massage therapists are required to submit digital fingerprints before a license is issued. Currently licensed massage therapists had until 1/31/2015 to meet this requirement. This new rule applies to establishment owners, too. Read about the new fingerprinting law on my other site for Florida massage therapists, Advanced Massage Techniques.
New Rule pertaining to chiropractors employing licensed massage therapists
As of July 1st, 2014, licensed massage therapists employed by chiropractors will not need a massage establishment license. Independent contractors or renters (this indicates you are not an employee) still need a massage establishment license.
Establishment Business Hours
A new law pertaining to business hours of massage establishments took effect on October 1, 2013. House bill 7005 prohibits the operation of massage establishments between the hours of midnight and 5:00 AM. Exemptions apply to: health care facilities, hotels, timeshares, and airports if the massage is performed under a medical prescription.
The new law also states that a massage establishment cannot be used as a primary residence unless it is zoned for residential use.
Licenses need to be prominently displayed near the entrance so the public and inspector (and the general public) can see it. The practitioner’s license needs to have an attached recent 2 x 2 photo.
- No two inspectors are the same. Most inspectors will give you time to fix some minor deficiencies, but they don’t have to give you this extra time.
- I have seen and heard that the most forgotten item on the inspection list is the fire extinguisher.
- A few inspectors will require linens to be in an enclosed container (you could use a large Tupperware tote), or inside an enclosed cabinet. This is not clearly stated in the rules, but it can be enforced.
- Some inspectors have problems with the uncovered memory foam facerest covers. And they should in my opinion. Keep them properly covered and sanitary.
- Some practitioners suggest having a table cleaner that is non-tuberculocidal on hand.
- Make sure your bathroom has paper towels, soap to wash hands, or/and antibacterial hand sanitizer.
- Check local-county and city- ordinances for additional licenses you may need (business or occupational).
- Don’t forget to renew your establishment license every two years with your massage license. They all need to be renewed by August 31st, every odd year. Learn more about the requirements for renewing your massage license.
If you plan to hire a nail specialist, facials specialist, cosmetologist, or barber, you also will need to obtain either a Florida barbershop or salon license.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Florida massage practitioners: Please feel free to share any tips, suggestions, or experiences you have had with inspections or the establishment licensing process.