The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

December 9, 2013

Police raise cuddling concerns over Snuggle House

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s ultra-liberal capital city is a place where just about anything goes, from street parties to naked bike rides. But city officials say a business is pushing even Madison’s boundaries by offering, of all things, hugs.

For $60, customers at the Snuggle House can spend an hour hugging, cuddling and spooning with professional snugglers.

Snugglers contend touching helps relieve stress. But Madison officials suspect the business is a front for prostitution and, if it’s not, fear snuggling could lead to sexual assault. Not buying the message that the business is all warm and fuzzy, police have talked openly about conducting a sting operation at the business, and city attorneys are drafting a new ordinance to regulate snuggling.

“There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen,” assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said. “No offense to men, but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle.”

Snuggle House owner Matthew Hurtado hasn’t responded to multiple requests for an interview. His attorney, Tim Casper, said in an interview last month the business is legitimate and Hurtado has put precautions in place to protect clients and employees from each other.

“The concept is obviously a novel one and you can see where they (the city) might be a little skeptical,” he said. “Could something happen? Yeah, I suppose. But they’re taking every precaution.”

In recent days, it’s become unclear whether or not the house is still in business. No one answered the door there Saturday. A posting on a Facebook page claiming to be the Snuggle House’s site said it had closed, but the page owner wouldn’t identify themselves — or confirm if it was the home’s official site. Neither Hurtado nor Casper have returned phone and email messages.

Madison’s concern seems to be deeper than in other cities where similar businesses have set up shop as cuddling has grown into a cottage industry over the past decade.

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