You might have heard the rumors and the complaints about illicit massage parlors in Tampa.
The city’s cracking down on them. It's a story we've stayed on top of for months.
Not too long ago, we reported on one named Seven Star Spa Massage. After a group called Clean Up Kennedy protested outside the facility for weeks, It shut down.
Now, it has reopened under a different name, “Sun Spa.”
That's why Joe Manson with Clean Up Kennedy is so frustrated. Simply changing the name forces police to start over on a new investigation.
“We were disappointed but it's not totally unexpected,” says Manson.
“It's not only unacceptable, immoral and illegal but it makes us appear to be something that we're not,” says Tampa Council member Harry Cohen.
Our reporter Shannon Valladolid attempted to get a statement from the spa but again no answer.
During Thursday morning workshop to address illicit massage parlors, Tampa Asst. City Attorney Michael Schmid presented challenges he found with the current bathhouse ordinance.
“Currently, under Chapter 6, Division 4 the city does regulate bathhouses. Currently, there are no permits for bathhouses and the ordinance isn't being enforced,” says Schmid.
Here are some of the proposed changes to that bathhouse ordinance.
- One changing the category it falls under. Right now, it's listed under "Adult Uses," which also includes adult bookstores and escort services.
- Clients would be required to enter through the front door, not through the back.
- Spas would have to keep a detailed log of every single person that enters the facility.
- Last, technicians would have to dress appropriately.
Councilman Mike Suarez says undercover officers can’t accept illicit offerings in these bathhouses, making the investigations more difficult.
“You can't be both a police officer and look as if you're about to have sex or get a sexual act performed on you,” says Suarez.
The changes are slow, but people like Manson are striving to make a difference.
“They're not fooling anyone by changing the name,” says Suarez. “We know what's going on in there and it's the same as before.”
The Department of Health shed some light for city council members about just how often these businesses are checked out.
Over the last two years, there were just under 2,300 inspections in Tampa. Of those, nearly 140 were operating without a license.
A video of the meeting is on YouTube.