Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Snuggle House shuts over 'potshots'

The Snuggle House in Madison, Wisconsin, offers a professional cuddling service

The owner of a new Snuggle House in the US has decided to shut it down just three weeks after it opened, choosing to pack up his pillows and beds under intense scrutiny from city officials who questioned whether the place was a front for a brothel.

The Snuggle House in Madison, Wisconsin, was part of a growing trend of touch therapy establishments and cuddle parties around the United States.

It was above a bar about a block from the state Capitol and offered customers an hour of cuddling in a bed with a professional snuggler for 60 US dollars (£36).

The business announced its closure on Facebook on Friday. Timothy Casper, the owner's lawyer, confirmed the closure, saying Matthew Hurtado was sick of the city harassing him and negative publicity.

"He's tired of people taking potshots at him," Mr Casper said. "He doesn't need that."

Mr Casper said he did not open the business to make money. He got the idea when he was in the hospital suffering from Lyme's disease and people were poking and prodding him.

The business's original October opening got pushed back to mid-November after city officials raised concerns about whether it was really a front for prostitution and the potential for sexual assaults.

They also questioned why Mr Hurtado, who has filed for bankruptcy twice, had no business plan or business insurance.

He developed a policy manual forbidding sex during snuggle sessions, installed security cameras and a panic button in each room, and promised to perform background checks on clients, assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said.

Meanwhile, police said they planned to run a sting operation at the business, sending in an officer posing as a customer to test the establishment's boundaries, and Ms Zilavy began work on a new ordinance regulating the business.

Mr Casper said the place had two or three dozen customers in the three weeks it was open, but that Mr Hurtado had had enough.

"All of this is so slanted and incorrect," he said.

Police said they had never received any complaints alleging criminal activity at the Snuggle House and denied officers had harassed the business. Ms Zilavy also denied hounding the business.

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