MADISON (WKOW) - The opening of a Madison business involving staff members cuddling clients on beds is delayed, as the business operator attempts to allay city concerns.
The Snuggle House at 123 East Main Street had planned to open Tuesday. But the owner's attorney, Timothy Casper tells 27 News there will be no launch until city officials are "comfortable" with the operation.
City officials say the business has yet to pass building and fire inspections, and needs to do so in order to qualify for an occupancy permit.
Assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy also says no detailed, business plan has been presented.
"The city's primary concern is, we don't want a house of prostitution popping up," Zilavy says.
The Snuggle House assistant manager Emily Noon tells 27 News says clients will sign contracts, and contact between snugglers and clients will have enforced boundaries.
"Intimate, non-sexual touch," Noon says.
Noon says the approach is considered cuddling, or touch, therapy. She says it's success at a business in Rochester, in New York is serving as an informal template for Madison's location, although the two businesses have no affiliation.
Noon tells 27 News there are also business based on cuddling in Colorado and California.
"There's so many people who don't have a significant other in their lives that just need to be held," Noon says.
Noon says part of The Snuggle House's target clientele is the elderly and hospice patients.
But the Snuggle House's web site and Facebook page feature the current five, staff members, or snugglers, with only one man on staff. Noon says all staff members are in their twenties.
There's no state licensing of practitioners of cuddling therapy, and Noon says staff members have no special training. "We're just college students that know how important it is to have physical touch in our lives."
Zilavy says The Snuggle House's representatives have yet to articulate a plan to address potentially risky situations, such as a snuggler in bed with a pajama-clad client who demands sexual touching.
Noon says the business owners has indicated rooms will be equipped with surveillance cameras and panic buttons.
"Matthew is our creator, is our owner, and he's really taking care of everything for us," Noon tells 27 News. "We have Matthew, and he's taking care of us."
Matthew, is Matthew Hurtado of Lone Rock, who has a current book that's advertised online as a biography of being a sex-addicted misfit, who becomes a millionaire.
Hurtado is also listed on the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's web site of tax delinquents as owing more than $10,000 in state income tax.
Casper says Hurtado disputes the delinquency.
Online, federal bankruptcy court records show Hurtado has filed for bankruptcy twice since 2002, most recently in Missouri in 2009.
Casper says Hurtado is committed to the touch therapy concept and anticipates The Snuggle House will overcome any initial skepticism.
"We're going to be watching the business very closely," Zilavy tells 27 News. "And monitoring it to make sure what they presented to us, is, in fact, what they're doing."
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