Sylvan drops escorts from business licensing bylaw

Escorts have been dropped from Sylvan Lake’s business licensing bylaw to be dealt with separately.

Escorts have been dropped from Sylvan Lake’s business licensing bylaw to be dealt with separately.

Coun. Sean McIntyre said it was clear that licensing escort agencies was “complicated and touchy issue” and was overshadowing the other parts of the bylaw. He suggested escorts be dealt with in their own bylaw.

Council agreed and first reading for the licensing bylaw was passed on Monday night, without escorts.

A public hearing is not required but council opted to hold one on April 8 to give local residents an opportunity to provide their input on the bylaw, which regulates businesses, including mobile businesses, buskers, pawn shops, secondhand stores and tourist homes.

An escort bylaw will come back to another meeting. Council agreed not to deal with on the same night as the other bylaw so as not to “muddy the waters.”

In an open mic session at the beginning of the meeting, council heard local resident Joel Loh’s take on why tackling escort licensing was a bad idea.

Attempts by other municipalities to regulate escort agencies through high licensing fees and rezoning restrictions have not survived court challenges, Loh said.

In one case, an escort agency owner facing criminal charges argued complicity on the part of the City of Calgary because it licensed escort agencies.

“There is a danger when it comes to opening this Pandora’s Box,” he said. “You cannot control prostitution once you open the door to it.”

Sylvan Lake was considering tough licensing regulations for escort agencies to regulate the businesses, which are not illegal and can now apply for a business licence with no restrictions.

Under proposed rules, escort agencies would have to pay an annual fee of $5,000 and escorts $300. Agencies would be required to get RCMP checks and open their financial records to scrutiny.

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