Madison's first and only snuggling business faces another hurdle before opening its doors. In fact, it could be an issue that prevents the Snuggle House from opening at all.
Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy and Madison Police Lt. David McCaw walked through the Snuggle House facility Tuesday afternoon, specifically looking for safety concerns.
The Snuggle House was pitched to the city as a place where people could schedule an allotted amount of private time with a professional snuggler. In that time, the client can converse with the employee and cuddle.
Three female snugglers and one male snuggler have already been hired.
Zilavy said the business needs to submit proof of insurance before the city can move forward with licenses, permits and the certificate of occupancy. Once Snuggle House obtains insurance, Zilavy said it would be allowed to open.
Owner Matthew Hurtado said that's been a challenge.
"It's a new concept, and it's hard for an insurance company to look at a new concept and to assess it properly, so we'll see what happens," Hurtado said. "That's been the one hardest thing so far."
Hurtado admitted there is a possibility the Snuggle House won't open if insurance is not obtained. If that happens, he is prepared to turn the second-floor space on East Main Street into offices.
If the concept does pull through, it would be Hurtado's first brick-and-mortar business. He already owns and runs a number of online ventures.
"We have our hearts set on doing it, and if we're going to do it, we're going to do it right," Hurtado said.
The cameras and surveillance set up in the four rooms seemed to be fully functioning and ready to record. While most safety requirements seem to be met, Zilavy still has doubts.
"Really, it's just hard to believe that this is a legitimate, pure snuggling business," Zilavy said.
"If this goes bad, it's not going to be about alcohol or giving away food. It will be about prostitution, so we're concerned about that," McCaw added.
Zilavy said she is concerned about misinformation from both Hurtado and employees. For instance, the initial target clientele was thought to be elderly and hospice patients, Zilavy said. Since then, she has wondered about the company's social media advertising and the choice location of downtown Madison.
Zilavy also heard about second thoughts to have overnight snuggling options.
Hurtado said the original pitch for a target market was based on research of a New York City business with a similar model. He said since then, the company has gotten 311 potential clients. Most of them are in Madison, but those customers span in age and background. Every possible client will go through a background check.
Hurtado also said they are no longer considering overnight options.
Zilavy is still concerned about the fine line between what's allowed at the Snuggle House and what's not by law.
"I'm actually not confident that it can work anywhere," Zilavy said, "but I guess we'll see."