After two employees were arrested on prostitution charges in the past 14 months, a Greenwood massage business was shut down by the city this week.
Golden Spa, located near the intersection of U.S. 31 and Main Street, has been on the city’s radar since it first opened in Greenwood without a license in 2015, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said.
This week, the city revoked the business’ license to operate as a massage parlor, the first time the city has taken that action, Laut said.
Across central Indiana, multiple communities, including Avon, Indianapolis, Carmel and Franklin, have rules regarding massage parlors. Greenwood has issued 14 licenses for massage businesses that are currently open, and Carmel has issued 34 so far this year, for example.
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Franklin has not issued any licenses, even though local businesses do offer massages and a city rule requires they seek a permit.
Being able to closely track massage businesses and then close them when needed are the key reasons the city has a requirement that massage businesses and massage therapists must have a permit from the city, Laut said.
Greenwood first put the rules into effect in 1983, after instances of prostitution at massage parlors were reported. The process allows police to check on the businesses to make sure they are operating as they should be, Laut said.
An undercover investigation last year found an employee at Golden Spa performed a sex act in exchange for money and that the business was operating without a permit, which is required by city rules. But then a co-owner who was not a part of the investigation applied for a license from the city, Laut said.
The city approved it since that person had not violated the city’s rules, but kept a close eye on the business, he said.
Earlier this month, another undercover investigation at at Golden Spa found an employee performing a sex act, and police arrested ChangLi Su, 54, of Evansville on a charge of prostitution. The case is under review by the Johnson County prosecutor, who will decide what, if any, charges to file.
“For the most part, the majority of them are operating in compliance and above board. This one here, we kept our eye on it, because we were suspicious of it,” Laut said.
In Franklin, the rules have also been in place for decades, but as of this month, no businesses had been issued a license, according to the police department.
Mayor Joe McGuinness said he would not be opposed to reviewing the city’s rules, which have been in place since 1983, but that the city hasn’t had any issues with prostitution at local massage businesses.
He isn’t sure why the city would need to regulate massage businesses, and how they would regulate them, he said.
State laws prohibit prostitution and patronizing a prostitute, so that issue is already addressed by the law, he said. And if that was reported to local police, they would investigate, McGuinness said.
Inspectors and police also would be able to go into businesses to check for compliance with codes and laws, he said.
And he would hope, if prostitution was found at a local business, the city could work with the prosecutor’s office to make sure the person was punished, he said.
McGuinness isn’t opposed to reviewing the city rules and thinks now would be a good time to do so, but said he has been focused on other priorities, such as road construction.
Here is a look at local rules for massage businesses:
Licenses issued: 0
What the rules say:
A massage business is not allowed to operate without a license issued by the mayor’s office.
A business is not allowed to hire or employ a person as a massage therapist who does not have a license from the mayor’s office.
$3,000 for a business
$500 for a massage therapist
What the city requires:
No massage therapist can give a massage to a person of the opposite sex, unless ordered by a doctor.
Massage businesses must be open to inspection during business hours to police, fire and health departments.
If there is a complaint:
The mayor or an authorized agent will conduct a hearing to determine if the license should be revoked.
If someone violates the city’s rules, they can be fined up to $500.
Licenses issued: 14
What the rules say:
A massage business is not allowed to operate without a license issued by the police department.
A business is not allowed to hire or employ a person as a massage therapist who does not have a license from the police department.
$25 for a business
$5 for a massage therapist
What the city requires:
The police chief will conduct a meeting to discuss an application to open a massage business.
The county health department will inspect the business to make sure bathrooms are waterproof and have hot and cold water.
The police chief will decide if the permit should be issued, and can consider whether the management has been convicted of a sex crime in the past.
Revocation or suspension:
The police chief will conduct a public hearing if a rule has been violated or an employee has been convicted of a sex crime, and will determine whether to revoke or suspend the employee or business license.