THE owner of a unique massage studio says Government guidance for businesses is “too black and white” after a Trading Standards dispute.

Alex Collinson is the founder of Pod, a massage and wellbeing studio in Brighton’s Hanningtons Lane. Massage therapy is provided with high-tech chairs, making the experience contact-free.

The studio was able to remain open for key workers during lockdown under the Government’s legal exemptions for non-essential retail businesses.

Alex was due to reopen Pod to the wider public this week but received an email from Trading Standards which she described as “crazy”.

The 39-year-old said: “We want to lease our products to businesses, spas and anyone who is interested, so we offer demo sessions in the chairs as well as individual bookings. We’ve been told we’re allowed to operate our studio as a retail showroom and lease the massage pods, but we can’t open to ‘provide people with massage in the studio’, when those two things are the same.

“It’s crazy as our coronavirus risk assessment and operations are the same for acting as a showroom as they are for studio clients.

“We have already made such a positive impact for those suffering from musculoskeletal issues and stress. Our public bodies should be looking to support physical and mental wellbeing right now, as well as protecting local businesses, where possible.”

Alex has safety measures in place, including extensive cleaning of the chairs, surfaces and door handles between clients, cashless payments, staggering clients, limits on customer numbers and social distancing.

She says Pod belongs in the non-essential retail category, rather than the Government’s category for massage parlours.

Alex said it was “a lot cleaner” than a high street shop, for example.

She said: : “It’s completely inappropriate to put us in the personal care, spas and massage parlour category, as that’s all hands-on contact.

“If they keep us in that category there will be a very specific set of coronavirus guidelines which we can’t comply with, because we simply don’t do that.

“The council is working within guidelines that don’t have the granularity to be applied in a fair way. They are very black and white and could prohibit a lot of businesses.”

A spokeswoman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “The council is duty bound to apply and interpret the current regulations and we are advising businesses on a case-by-case basis. The current regulations state that spas, beauty salons, and massage parlours must remain closed. We will be contacting this business to clarify our position.”