Maple Ridge business licence bylaw soon updated

Includes pilot project to save contractors having to buy multiple licences in Metro Vancouver

Maple Ridge should have a streamlined, updated and more efficient bylaws bible within a few weeks.

Council has worked through the draft business licence bylaw, which governs everything from body rub studios to escort services to shark fin soup. And if one part of it works out, even trades people from Vancouver to Mission could find their lives easier.

Under a one-year pilot project involving eight cities from Hope to Surrey, in addition to a business licence required in their home city, contractors, architects or engineers would only need one $250 mobile licence in order to do business in the other eight cities, which include Mission, Abbotsford and Langley.

That would mean contractors wouldn’t have to buy licences in each city where they have clients, a requirement that can add up to thousands of dollars.

Other occupations such as photographers or caterers were also considered, but varying standards in background checks required meant those were deferred until later.

The streamlined system is part of the new business licence bylaw which went to council for third reading Tuesday night, with final adoption in November.

In the refined bylaw is a section that outlaws serving of shark fin soup, a recent change OK’d by politicians, as well as an expanded definition of what it means to have a body rub studio.

A new demand that will be noticed by all bar and restaurant owners will be the requirement to have signs warning about drinking while pregnant. At least one sign must be visible at a bar or at an off-sale pub, as well as in each washroom.

That change was requested by the social planning advisory council.

“It will be a phased-in, educational approach,” said bylaws director Liz Holitzki.

The social planning advisory council, which made the proposal, will be doing most of the work and helping businesses obtain signs at minimal cost.

As well, regulations on body paint and modeling studios will be added to those covering body rub parlours.

The district has been following examples in Richmond and Coquitlam regarding massage parlours, body rub studios and body painting studios. Every body rub, body paint or modelling studio must provide picture ID and criminal record searches of all owners and employees. Employees can’t wear see-through clothing nor provide sexual services.

As well, the premises offering such services must record the name and address of every client who uses the service, as well as the amount charged.

Holitzki says it’s a matter of making slow progress and ensuring such businesses are operating within the bylaws. If they don’t, the investigation is turned over to police.

It also seems to have led to a reduction in the number of such shops offering those services. A quick flip through the 2010-2011 yellow pages shows no massage clinics alluding to sexual services.

“I don’t know if they’ve disappeared as much as gone underground,” Holitzki said.

There are also expanded regulations on escort services, where within a day of hiring, social escort services have to give a licence inspector the name of that new employee.

Either the licence inspector or the head of police has to approve that hiring, while police can enter a social escort service at any time.

“But I don’t think it’s [escort services] as prevalent as it used to be.”

The new bylaw also offers a clearer definition between dog daycare (which operate 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. only) and boarding services which offer overnight stays.