Goldwater Institute Sues Cosmetology Board Over Closure of “Spa Fish” Business

Phoenix–Like countless enterprising American immigrants before her, Cindy Vong came up with an inspired business idea.

Ms. Vong, a licensed nail technician who owns LaVie Nail Salon in Gilbert, last year opened a second business called Spa Fish Therapy. The therapy, which is popular in many Asian countries and in other states, uses small Garra Rufa fish imported from China. The fish nibble on the customers’ feet, removing dead skin and providing a relaxing experience in a safe, sanitary environment. Clients paid $30 to plunge their feet into a clean tank filled with fish.

Everything was going swimmingly until an inspection by the Arizona Board of Cosmetology. The Board, which is comprised primarily of members of the profession, decided that the fish were performing pedicures and thus subject to the Board’s regulatory control. Because fish cannot be sterilized, the Board ordered Spa Fish to close, which cost Ms. Vong a substantial financial investment and lost business, leading her to lay off three employees.

The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional litigation today filed a lawsuit against the cosmetology board, charging that the order exceeds the Board’s jurisdiction and violates Ms. Vong’s freedom of enterprise under the state and federal constitutions.

“The Board knows nothing about spa fish therapy, so its reaction is to shut it down,” declared lead attorney Clint Bolick. “The Board’s action is more about protecting cosmetologists from competition than it is about protecting consumers against anything except wet feet and smooth skin.”

“For the couple of months I was allowed to perform the treatment it was very popular” Cindy Vong recounts. “People came from all over, other states, Scottsdale, Tucson. All small businesses should have the freedom to step outside the box and be creative.”

“Some people will view this as a fishy lawsuit,” Mr. Bolick added. “But it affects the economic liberty of every American. Too many small businesses have been destroyed by overzealous regulation. If we have anything to do with it, Cindy Vong’s Spa Fish will not be one of them.”

For more information on Vong v. Sansom and other Goldwater Institute lawsuits visit The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.


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