EDMONTON -- While the city was closing playgrounds due to coronavirus Tuesday, the Secret SPA “body rub centre” on Whyte Avenue was holding a customer appreciation night with half-hour massages on sale for $140.

“Our girls are very clean. So every customer is asked did they travel or not,” the receptionist at Secret SPA, who declined to give her name, told CTV News Edmonton over the phone.

The receptionist said the spa was cleaned every day and that appointments and walk-ins were still being accepted.

The Alberta government was still permitting “personal services like hairdressers, tattoo parlours or massage services” Tuesday, although many businesses had voluntarily closed due to coronavirus.

Venus Spa on Stony Plain Road was also open and accepting clients Tuesday night.

“Come on in, a girl will meet you at the door,” the receptionist, who also declined to provide her name, said over the phone.

When asked if it was safe given the coronavirus pandemic, she replied, “Oh yeah. Absolutely everything is with precaution and we have it professionally cleaned every day. It’s not bad, we’ve had no problems so far.”

The Venus Spa website read, “Together we’ll get through this, so come on it (sic) and let’s play!”

The City of Edmonton regulates and licenses adult massage parlours and classifies them as “body rub centres.”

The city has a section on its website dedicated specifically to COVID-19 awareness and updates. A search of that page does not show anything specifically on “body rub centres” and coronavirus.

A Google search shows some Edmonton parlours have closed amid the pandemic.

Bex Massage, also on Stony Plain Road, was locked up Tuesday night.

A sign on the door said Bex would be closed “approximately a month.”

Bex Massage sign

“Health and safety are our main concern, please be careful and we will see you when it’s safe to do so,” the sign, dated March 20, and signed “Bex Massage” read.

The city’s website does tell residents to “keep your distance; at least 2 metres from others,” adding park rangers and other officials would be patrolling outdoor spaces to “support” those requirements.

When asked how a massage could be given, while respecting physical distancing recommendations, the receptionist at Venus Spa responded: “Well, I dunno I guess you have to figure it out, right?” 

The Massage Therapist Association of Alberta recommended its members stop practicing in a website update dated March 24. The MTAA pointed out several provinces had already stopped allowing massages.

“In our previous notice to members, we recommended that you stop practicing based upon the inability to maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. To clarify, the MTAA does not have the authority to demand you close your practice,” the MTAA website read.

None of the “body rub centres” mentioned in this article are members of the MTAA, according to a search tool on the association’s website.