City Attorney Dennis Herrera is taking on San Francisco brothels that front as massage parlors, getting one happy ending at a time.
On Tuesday, Herrera announced he reached a settlement to close a brothel in the Financial District and that he filed a different lawsuit to shut down another brothel in the Richmond District — the latter existing across the street from a preschool.
The city sued Queen’s Health Center, on Kearny and Bush streets, in February and the would-be massage parlor was evicted the next month. Store owner Jie Qin Zhou must pay $195,000 and can’t be in any way formally involved in personal service businesses, like nail salons and massage parlors, for 10 years in San Francisco and for five years outside the city.
Building owner Frank B. Iavorone owes $100,000 and can’t lease to a personal service business for 10 years.
“Let me be clear. The women exploited in these establishments are the victims,” Herrera says in a statement. “Property owners can’t look the other way. They have to take responsibility for the decisions they make.”
Queen’s Health Center gathered several violations, penalties, and law enforcement violations since its beginnings as “covert brothel” in April 2010, the city attorney’s office says.
One Yelp user in 2012 reviewed the Financial District operation and posted: “This is the place where you think of [a] kinky massage, over the phone they don’t disclose anything…You can choose the massage therapist to be nude or in sexy lingerie during the session…Code word is boom boom.”
In another case, Herrera filed a lawsuit against Paradise Health Center on Balboa and Fourth streets, across the street from Peter’s Place Nursery School and a couple blocks from Frank Mc Coppin Elementary School. Neighbors, parents and school staff have noted several complaints about it over the years.
The Department of Public Health suspended the Richmond parlor’s massage permit for 60 days after inspectors saw a masseuse practice a sex act and issues violations, like not being fully clothed while working and staying open after dark. The store reengaged in prostitution once it was over, the city attorney’s office says.
Since at least October 2012, Paradise has posted advertisements on backpage.com that show women with little clothing and note the women’s’ ethnicities. Plus, it has security cameras outside and has a buzzer system to control who goes in or out, which is against planning and health codes.
Paradise had far fewer Yelp reviews, mostly users commenting on its shady operations, but one added: “The girls will smoke out the windows while waiting for the next ‘client.’ Very seedy and not much of a massage if you know what I mean.”
Herrera requested that San Francisco Superior Court to close Paradise for one year, auction off its property, penalize them for violating city code, and impose the same restrictions on these business and building owners like they did for Queen’s Health Center.