Two Massage Businesses Gone
Duluth City Council conducts first appeals hearings on violations under tougher ordinance regulating massage businesses. Three businesses withdraw appeals.
Duluth apparently has two fewer massage businesses after council hearings Monday (June 11) on appeals by five establishments facing revocation or suspension of their business licenses. Three of the businesses withdrew their appeals before being heard.
There were reportedly about 10 licensed massages operating in the city prior to last night’s appeals hearings and withdrawals.
Owners of the five businesses had already appeared in Municipal Court and paid fines for violations that included failing to maintain a registry on the premises of licensed massage therapists in their employ and a list of customers that includes date of service, name, address, and telephone numbers for police inspection. One business was cited for having its doors locked during normal business hours.
Tong Tong at 3294 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. accepted the revocation of its business license and withdrew its appeal. It will go out of business and is not eligible to reapply for a license since the city already has its recently imposed limit of seven massage businesses. This business was the scene of a police shootout between armed robbers and Duluth Police last November that had alarmed nearby homeowners.
Nukoa Day Spa withdrew its appeal after accepting a 30-day business license suspension. The owner announced he was dissolving the business and moving out of the city.
Chinese Therapeutic accepted a 30-day license suspension and withdrew its appeal.
No one appeared to represent Missy's Retreat, which was given a seven-day license suspension by the council.
Daniel and Feung Allen, owners of Tai Ji Massage, explained to the council they had purchased the existing business and taken it over three weeks prior to being cited for violations. Tai Ji Massage was cited for not having a registry of employees and a list of patrons. Also, Duluth police reported the former owner was giving a massage when the business was inspected. Allen said she was under contract to provide them with instruction for a month. In a follow-up visit, police found the business to be in compliance. The council suspended their business license for 14 days.
Last night’s due process hearings were the first conducted by the mayor and council, which were coached prior to the meeting by City Attorney Steven Pereira on proper procedures. Mayor Nancy Harris presided over the hearings. The council voted on suspension recommendations proposed by City Clerk Teresa Lynn, who handles the city’s business permits. The hearings were held in City Council Chambers.
City Solicitor Russell Bryant presented evidence. Duluth Police Det. Rick Thompson, a member of the Duluth Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Crime Suppression Unit, testified on violations encountered during recent regular inspections of the businesses.
The revocation and suspensions were effective June 12.
The hearings followed the May 14 passage by the city council of changes that toughened the city’s ordinance to regulate massage businesses in the city. The changes limit the number of massage businesses in the city to seven, raise the business license fee from $50 to $1,500, and require owners to provide photo IDs, proof of state certification and fingerprints for massage therapists in their employ.
More stringent background checks also will be required of massage business owners who apply for city licenses, their partners and managers. Existing businesses prior to July 1, 2012, will be grandfathered and allowed to continue operating until changing ownership, going out of business or violating the ordinance. Transferring ownership became more difficult under the modified ordinance.
The revisions strengthened a massage ordinance adopted by the city in March 2011 that replaced a previous ordinance. The owners could have their business licenses suspended or revoked, and the business could be shut down for violations. A new appeals process was set up that allows the city council to hear appeals for license revocations, suspensions or denials or to appoint a hearings officer.
A number of residents had appeared before the council asking the city stop the proliferation of massage businesses on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road.