NEW PORT RICHEY — Rebecca Lieberman is a hypnotherapist who wants to help patients dealing with stress, low self-esteem and nicotine addiction.
But, technically speaking, she can't do that in her downtown office.
That's because the city considers "hypnotism" a prohibited use of a building in the downtown district, putting it in the same category as palm readers, adult entertainment clubs and pawn shops. Lieberman, who is also a licensed massage therapist, said the city has the wrong view of her profession.
"We're here to help and heal," said Lieberman, "not to do magic."
So Lieberman is paying close attention to tonight's meeting of the City Council, which will discuss changing some types of businesses allowed — or not allowed — downtown.
Back in 2005, the council, hoping to have some control over the character of the downtown district, approved two lists of uses: Those that can locate in the downtown and those that cannot.
Antique stores, locksmiths, bakeries? Yes. Hypnotists, massage parlors, and government offices? No.
Businesses on neither list can try to win a "conditional use" permit from the city, a process that requires making a case before the city's Development Review Committee and, then, the City Council, which must hold two hearings on the matter.
Tonight, the council will discuss changes to their lists: Adding consignment clothes stores, government offices and vegetable markets to the permitted list, for instance, and shops that sell drug paraphernalia to the prohibited list.
Currently, there are nearly 40 permitted uses and 25 prohibited uses. Under the proposed changes, there would be more than 50 permitted businesses and 23 prohibited ones.
"Hypnotists" remains on the prohibited list. Lieberman said Monday she hopes to persuade the council to take it off that list and add hypnotherapy — a more clinical-sounding description — to the list of permitted uses.
She acknowledges she's been doing a limited amount of hypnotherapy, anyway, at her massage therapy office, which she opened on Grand Boulevard about 1 1/2 years ago.
Lieberman said someone from the city told her that hypnotherapy would not be allowed under the city codes, but "as long as we don't see you doing it, that's fine."
But having to be discreet about her secondary profession, she said, has meant she can't grow it. "Hypnotherapy is my passion," she said.
Lieberman isn't the only one who has run into problems with the city codes. The owners of Makai Kayak, a boat sales and rental business on Main Street, know what happens when you're neither permitted nor prohibited.
Arden and Joan Anderson were almost ready to open their boat shop last year — they had already started paying rent and set up their credit card machines — when they learned that they would need a conditional use permit.
Joan Anderson said that once city officials realized her problem, they got her on the City Council agenda as quickly as possible. But since two hearings of the council are required, she lost nearly two months of business.
"To an opening business, that could make a big difference," she said.
But her problems prompted one of the proposed changes to the code. To the list of permitted uses, officials propose adding "sporting goods."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.