(Photo: Screen Grab via thesnugglehouse.org)
A Madison, Wis., business that had hoped to bring healing to the world through "therapeutic cuddles" for $60 an hour was forced to close its doors just three weeks after it opened and is now offering its brand new furniture for free to church groups.
"This is an exciting opportunity to receive the benefits of TOUCH THERAPY in a non-sexual way, and feel 'connected' in a disconnected, digital world," The Snuggle House advertised in a description on its website.
"One session may be all you require, from time-to-time, or use 'Snuggling' as a staple to assist you in getting through a rough time. Our stuff [sic] will be attentitive [sic], courteous, polite, loving, and available to you within the boundaries of this profession," the description noted further.
The business, however, drew a lot of fanfare from local media before it even officially opened and the city had safety concerns about the business' high risk of evolving into a brothel.
In a News 3 report in October before The Snuggle House officially opened its manager, Hannah Rode, said she was aware that the business idea was a bit different.
"Yeah, we would like go right into cuddling like spooning on a bed," said Rode laughing. "It sounds crazy because it's two strangers. It's two people that don't know each other and in our culture that is so like, that doesn't happen," she said.
Her team of professional snugglers she explained were simply "sort of hippie-like" and "just seriously want more love, more peace, more connection." She also explained that she was ready to fight for the snuggling business.
"I'm totally ready for people to be against it or not understand, and I'm okay with that. My motto is 'I'm going to change the world one snuggle at a time,'" she said.
Last Friday, however, the business announced on its Facebook page that it had closed after snuggling customers for a total of three weeks.
"The Snuggle House is Officially Closed - for good. For those people who supported us, thank you. Snuggle on!" noted the business in a Facebook post.
"Any church organization that could use extra furniture for people who are in need this holiday season, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. All of our stuff is brand new and very nice. We will donate all our assets to those in need. Thank you," it noted on the page.
Timothy Casper, attorney for The Snuggle House's owner, Matthew Hurtado, told the Associated Press on Monday that his client decided to shut down The Snuggle House because of harassment from the city and negative publicity.
"He's tired of people taking potshots at him," said Casper. "He doesn't need that."
The Snuggle House was located above a bar about one block from Wisconsin's Capitol. It represented a growing business community advertising touch therapy and cuddle parties around the country.
Similar businesses like The Snuggery in Rochester, N.Y., offer a wider array of cuddling arrangements, compared to The Snuggle House.
At The Snuggery, in addition to accessing a single snuggler, clients can pay for the "Double Cuddle," which gives them access to two snugglers at double the cost, which can be as high as $180 for a 90 minute session.
The "Overnight Cuddle" described as the "most enjoyable for well-established guests" comes at a cost of $425. The session starts at 10:30 p.m. and ends at 7 a.m. The Christian Post contacted the business for comment on this story but no one answered.
The city, according to AP, had concerns that Hurtado, who filed for bankruptcy twice, did not have a business plan or insurance. Assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said Hurtado had developed a policy manual prohibiting sex between snugglers and their clients, and panic buttons and security cameras were installed in all the rooms. Background checks on clients was also promised.
There were also complaints that local police had been harassing the business, which Police Lt. David McCaw denied. He admitted, however, that he told Hurtado and Casper that they were planning a sting on the business.
"That's just what we do for drugs, bars, anywhere we think it's beneficial," McCaw said. "We do it all the time. You can't expect that's not going to happen to you."
Casper said his client got the idea for The Snuggle House when he was in the hospital suffering from Lyme's disease. "He often thought it would be nice if someone came in and gave him a hug," said Casper.