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View Full Version : How do "spas" get to open and stay in business?


It's Not Rocket Surgery!
05-30-2012, 02:12 PM
Over the weekend, I drove past a sign advertising a "spa" a few miles up the road (this was I-65 in Kentucky). There seem to be quite a few of these, largely near major highways or in sketchy areas of cities.

It is obvious these places are basically brothels/massage parlors (of the "happy ending" type), and those are illegal in almost all of the U.S. So how do these places manage to get business permits? How are they not raided by law enforcement on a daily basis? I know they are sometimes raided (and usually found to be harboring illegal aliens / sex slaves), but it is obviously worth someone's while to operate these places.

It can't be JUST bribes keeping the cops at bay. What's the Dope?

Sicks Ate
05-30-2012, 02:16 PM
Something I read a long time ago is working its way to the surface....oh, there it is:

I don't know if it applies to these establishments, but the way it can work for the owner is that they maintain deniability when it comes to the happy endings. Their defense is that anything more than a vanilla massage was an agreement between the 'masseuse' and the customer, and not sanctioned by the business itself.

Whether this is legally watertight is not within my realm of expertise.

phouka
05-30-2012, 02:19 PM
Proving it's a brothel in a court of law is more complicated than you might assume. That's aside from any corruption angle, which is almost inevitable when dealing with consensual activities that have been made illegal.

I imagine it's a matter of resources and nuisance. So long as the spas aren't keeping the sex workers against their will, victimless crimes fall a lot lower on the "must deal with now" scale than, say, robbery and murder.

If local citizens start complaining or the press notices and makes noise, law enforcement will crack down. If the sex workers start stealing from their clients, or there's a sudden spike in STDs that make the CDC sit up and take notice, that will get attention.

In short, so long as the businesses don't attract too much attention, they're likely to stay.

dolphinboy
05-30-2012, 02:24 PM
Believe it or not there are hundreds of legitimate message parlors. The problem is that there are also hundreds of illegitimate message parlors and law enforcement can't spend all of their limited resources in an effort to shut them down.

It's not like these customers are getting murdered, robbed or raped.

Just like with prostitution, there is some tolerance in most communities without the public picketing City Hall. Every once in a while there will be a coordinated raid that gets lots of headlines, but if they really tried to eliminate these "services" they would just be driven underground.

In other words, it's not a serious enough problem worth the time, money and effort to deal with effectively.

Si Amigo
05-30-2012, 02:28 PM
And who doesn't like Happy Endings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_ending)?

Czarcasm
05-30-2012, 02:36 PM
The "spas" that are in it for the long haul have two sets of clientele-the tourist/rubes who are never actually told that they are going to get some sex for their money but are dumb enough to believe the "wink-nudge" hints given by the girls, and the locals/regulars that business knows personally. They former get nothing but an empty wallet, and the latter get their rocks off.

Mr. Excellent
05-30-2012, 02:39 PM
Huh. Well, color me naive - I'd heard of the "massage parlor" fig leaf, of course, but when I think of a "spa" I think of places that women go to put mud on their faces or what-have-you. It really wouldn't occur to me to think, "Aha! That place is a front for a house of ill-repute!"

dracoi
05-30-2012, 02:42 PM
Something I read a long time ago is working its way to the surface....oh, there it is:

I don't know if it applies to these establishments, but the way it can work for the owner is that they maintain deniability when it comes to the happy endings. Their defense is that anything more than a vanilla massage was an agreement between the 'masseuse' and the customer, and not sanctioned by the business itself.

Whether this is legally watertight is not within my realm of expertise.

Yes, I think it's mostly this.

If the happy ending is paid for by tipping the masseuse, the owner of the establishment has technically done nothing wrong and can pretend ignorance. If the vice squad has to nail one masseuse after another, they're going to be spinning their wheels. Building a case against the owner takes a lot more work because you have to show knowledge and intent, not just activity.

Of course, I wouldn't assume that a place is a brothel in disguise just based on location. Rent and labor are the two biggest expenses for a business like this. Being in a sleazy part of town or just outside of town makes both cheaper.

Keeve
05-30-2012, 02:43 PM
Huh. Well, color me naive - I'd heard of the "massage parlor" fig leaf, of course, but when I think of a "spa" I think of places that women go to put mud on their faces or what-have-you. It really wouldn't occur to me to think, "Aha! That place is a front for a house of ill-repute!"Ditto. Don't spas cater to women?

Little Nemo
05-30-2012, 03:45 PM
Huh. Well, color me naive - I'd heard of the "massage parlor" fig leaf, of course, but when I think of a "spa" I think of places that women go to put mud on their faces or what-have-you. It really wouldn't occur to me to think, "Aha! That place is a front for a house of ill-repute!"There are also "tanning salons" that are fronts for prostitution.

Rigamarole
05-30-2012, 03:52 PM
Huh. Well, color me naive - I'd heard of the "massage parlor" fig leaf, of course, but when I think of a "spa" I think of places that women go to put mud on their faces or what-have-you. It really wouldn't occur to me to think, "Aha! That place is a front for a house of ill-repute!"

Ditto. Don't spas cater to women?

You guys are sooo sheltered it's adorable.

StusBlues
05-30-2012, 03:55 PM
There are also "tanning salons" that are fronts for prostitution.

Not to mention "veterinary clinics."

VOW
05-30-2012, 03:57 PM
Huh. Well, color me naive - I'd heard of the "massage parlor" fig leaf, of course, but when I think of a "spa" I think of places that women go to put mud on their faces or what-have-you. It really wouldn't occur to me to think, "Aha! That place is a front for a house of ill-repute!"

If the spa is in an upscale part of town, has a huge fancy building, and advertises manicures, pedicures, facials, and fancy cars are parked in front (or better yet, has valet parking), we can conclude it is a business that caters to women and any massage services are of the true therapeutic variety.

If it's a dinky, run-down building in a seedy part of town, has lots of neon signage, advertises "table showers" and/or "Asian ladies," and has pick-ups or big rigs parked out front, it can be assumed it is of the shady business variety.


~VOW

StusBlues
05-30-2012, 04:10 PM
More to the point--since I missed the edit window--I think dracoi has the right idea. LEO time is a finite resource. Most County Sheriffs and the like would rather their cops spend time busting speeders and reckless drivers, not to mention responding to emergency calls about murders, rapes, assaults, and the like. Going after sex workers takes time and puts cops in precarious positions--no one wants a sexual harassment complaint on their record. That, and the owner can easily claim that individual employees are loose cannons; busting one sex worker may be easy, but closing down the whole place is hard. Unless well-placed and/or noisy moral guardians are complaining about a place, it's a low priority.

leftfield6
05-30-2012, 05:33 PM
I think this is the kind of "spa" the OP is referring to ;)

Billboard (http://z3crosscountry.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/georgia-spa.jpg)

John Mace
05-30-2012, 07:16 PM
Not to mention "veterinary clinics."

And barber shops. Theraputic Massage and Acupressure are often a dead give away. Or so I'm told.

Or, just look for the ones with beat-up pick-up trucks out front. :)

DrDeth
05-30-2012, 08:20 PM
If the spa is in an upscale part of town, has a huge fancy building, and advertises manicures, pedicures, facials, and fancy cars are parked in front (or better yet, has valet parking), we can conclude it is a business that caters to women and any massage services are of the true therapeutic variety.

If it's a dinky, run-down building in a seedy part of town, has lots of neon signage, advertises "table showers" and/or "Asian ladies," and has pick-ups or big rigs parked out front, it can be assumed it is of the shady business variety.




More or less correct, except that if it's attached to a Chiropractor or similar it's legit.

Most "spas" are legit, but the ones that are more "adult oriented" make it rather clear by their advertising.

Maggie the Ocelot
05-30-2012, 08:27 PM
I think this is the kind of "spa" the OP is referring to ;)

Billboard (http://z3crosscountry.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/georgia-spa.jpg)

Seems legit.

carnivorousplant
05-30-2012, 09:07 PM
Or, just look for the ones with beat-up pick-up trucks out front. :)

They must be inexpensive.

Have I been missing out?

John Mace
05-30-2012, 10:22 PM
They must be inexpensive.

Have I been missing out?
Yes. Or so I'm told.

ShibbOleth
05-30-2012, 11:02 PM
More or less correct, except that if it's attached to a Chiropractor or similar it's legit.



That's an assumption that is not always correct. Chiropractic and acupuncture can also be fronts. And to make it more confusing, there are now some spas that advertise as if they are of an adult nature, but aren't, at least not explicitly. So guy wanders in thinking he's going to have some fun and just gets a massage. How can he complain?

Keeve
05-30-2012, 11:35 PM
I think this is the kind of "spa" the OP is referring to ;)

Billboard (http://z3crosscountry.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/georgia-spa.jpg)That's exactly my point. I would call that a "massage parlor". Note the word "massage" on the billboard. I don't see the word "spa" there. Would you call it a spa?

Little Nemo
05-31-2012, 12:40 AM
That's exactly my point. I would call that a "massage parlor". Note the word "massage" on the billboard. I don't see the word "spa" there. Would you call it a spa?Fair enough. But here's an ad (http://ktvq.com/images/thumbnails/36365B3D4A4B080774EDAE848900241A_600_600.jpg) for the Shangri-La Spa and Sauna. And I suspect that you could obtain illegal services at this business.

dropzone
05-31-2012, 12:41 AM
Being in a sleazy part of town...I-65 manages to be a sleazy part of town for most of its length, even if the town is a cornfield.

grude
05-31-2012, 03:00 AM
Most "spas" are legit, but the ones that are more "adult oriented" make it rather clear by their advertising.

In the Montrose area(large gay population) of Houston there used to be a massage place with a sign featuring a muscular man posed so no nudity was showing, they advertised man on man massage with other wink wink nudge nudge phrases.

And of course all the places that mention their workers race and sex, asian massage, I've even seen one or two just come out and say erotic massage.

Manda JO
05-31-2012, 06:44 AM
I have always assumed that the massage parlors/adult video store type places that you see out on the interstates away from the cities probably are pretty significant tax revenue generators by the standards of rural locales, and that is why they are tolerated. Selling sin to people who are just passing through isn't marring your community, and brings in real money.

Colophon
05-31-2012, 09:56 AM
Just don't expect a happy ending at your local Spar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spar_(retailer)).

ralph124c
05-31-2012, 10:42 AM
Here in New England, the word "spa" was used for a soda fountain/lunch counter operation.
It's apparently quite archaic, since there are very few of them left.

Freudian Slit
05-31-2012, 10:54 AM
Not to mention "veterinary clinics."

I can see figuring out that a salon/spa is really a brothel but how do you let people know a vet clinic is? Use the word "pussy" in lieu of kitty?

TruCelt
05-31-2012, 11:22 AM
That reminds me - does anyone else think that Friendly's should be shaken until it's teeth rattle for selling a "Happy Ending Sundae" on the kids menu?

DocCathode
05-31-2012, 11:39 AM
In the alternative papers here in Philadelphia, there are two sections of advertisements for spas. The first section is listed with the ads for doctors and such. They use words like reiki and accupressure. The second section is near the personals and uses words like asian staff, body shampoo, and full body massage.

The cops could go after the spas in the second section. But, largely they don't. Technically laws are being broken. But, it's kept out of the public eye and there are no complaining neighbors.

Czarcasm
05-31-2012, 11:53 AM
In the alternative papers here in Philadelphia, there are two sections of advertisements for spas. The first section is listed with the ads for doctors and such. They use words like reiki and accupressure. The second section is near the personals and uses words like asian staff, body shampoo, and full body massage.

The cops could go after the spas in the second section. But, largely they don't. Technically laws are being broken. But, it's kept out of the public eye and there are no complaining neighbors.I'm of the opposite opinion-the spas offering woo therapy should be shut down, and the ones that give you bang for your buck should be left alone.

Minnie Luna
05-31-2012, 12:08 PM
In the alternative papers here in Philadelphia, there are two sections of advertisements for spas. The first section is listed with the ads for doctors and such. They use words like reiki and accupressure. The second section is near the personals and uses words like asian staff, body shampoo, and full body massage.

The cops could go after the spas in the second section. But, largely they don't. Technically laws are being broken. But, it's kept out of the public eye and there are no complaining neighbors.

My husband used to have an office on Chestnut Street in Philly. The employees who smoked would use the loading dock that was on Ranstead to hang out and smoke. The loading dock offered a great view of the local Massage Parlor. He said the clientele was almost always of the white middle aged male variety, the girls who worked there were all young, pretty and asian.

Ethilrist
05-31-2012, 12:15 PM
... Just like with prostitution, there is some tolerance in most communities without the public picketing City Hall...
uh... wouldn't this be prostitution?

Gatopescado
05-31-2012, 01:32 PM
Here in Nevada, they (brothels) are called "ranchs". There are 4 or 5 of them just down the road. Can't think of any "spas", however.

fiddlesticks
05-31-2012, 03:10 PM
I think this is the kind of "spa" the OP is referring to ;)

Billboard (http://z3crosscountry.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/georgia-spa.jpg)

Found it! (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Macon,+GA&hl=en&ll=32.854788,-83.644087&spn=0.01132,0.017316&sll=32.854679,-83.644023&sspn=0.022784,0.034633&geocode=CWvZQaeG1yvnFfcb9QEd7t4D-ykN44GIS_jziDGhpL_xPH2x7g&hnear=Macon,+Bibb,+Georgia&t=m&z=16&layer=c&cbll=32.854689,-83.644006&panoid=tNkE66Hbx4xB2y0osCKbEQ&cbp=12,235,,0,0)

Bricker
05-31-2012, 04:39 PM
uh... wouldn't this be prostitution?

Technically, not necessarily.

At common law, prostitution was the act, for money or its equivalent, of committing adultery, fornication, or crimes against nature.

Masturbation for hire, then, may not be prostitution -- depends on the laws of the state.

iamthewalrus(:3=
05-31-2012, 05:06 PM
Found it! (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Macon,+GA&hl=en&ll=32.854788,-83.644087&spn=0.01132,0.017316&sll=32.854679,-83.644023&sspn=0.022784,0.034633&geocode=CWvZQaeG1yvnFfcb9QEd7t4D-ykN44GIS_jziDGhpL_xPH2x7g&hnear=Macon,+Bibb,+Georgia&t=m&z=16&layer=c&cbll=32.854689,-83.644006&panoid=tNkE66Hbx4xB2y0osCKbEQ&cbp=12,235,,0,0)Can't be. Not a pickup truck in sight.

Irishman
06-01-2012, 10:47 AM
Fair enough. But here's an ad (http://ktvq.com/images/thumbnails/36365B3D4A4B080774EDAE848900241A_600_600.jpg) for the Shangri-La Spa and Sauna. And I suspect that you could obtain illegal services at this business.

Why, just look at those cute Asian ladies who are happy with their spa experience. Asian ladies, this is the spa for you.

What do you mean, "Asian massage" doesn't mean "we massage Asians"?

I thought an "Asian massage" was where they walk on your back, as opposed to "Swedish massage", where they break you in half.

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