2013-08-30 / Front Page

‘Table showers’ prompted center closure

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – South Portland police say a massage therapy center on Broadway operated as an unlicensed “adult spa” in violation of city ordinances.

According to a media release from Lt. Frank Clark of the South Portland Police Department, a police investigation into “suspicious or inappropriate activities” at Red Stone Spa, located at 585 Broadway, revealed the establishment violated two city ordinances by offering massage services without a city license and offering clients “table showers” – bathing them before or after a massage.

In a phone interview Monday, Aug. 26, Clark said any sort of bathing, rub down or other “pseudo-massage” services fall under the category of an “adult spa.” While those businesses are legal under city ordinance, the owners are required to apply for a license from the city as an “adult use establishment.”

The Adult Use Establishment Ordinance (Chapter 14, Article XIII) was enacted in 1997 with the purpose of regulating adult businesses such as entertainment stores, movie theaters, spas and clubs that feature erotic dancers.

The ordinance aims to prevent such businesses from establishing themselves in residential neighborhoods. No business can receive a license if it is within 1,000 feet of a public park, residential zoned area, school or church.

Red Stone Spa is located in a busy Broadway corridor near the Casco Bay Bridge, less than 400 feet from both Mill Creek Park and Memorial Middle School, meaning the owners would not receive an adult use permit even if they were to apply.

The massage therapy center is housed in a small white building on the same property as Fresh Look Cleaners, in between two banks, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution and Biddeford Savings Bank. Business owners in the area declined comment on the activity at the massage therapy center.

The police department issued a letter dated Aug. 23 to Lucy Louie, owner of Red Stone Spa, and manager Lan Song Liu, both of New York, informing them of the alleged violations. Clark said Louie and Liu were asked to immediately cease offering “table showers,” and were directed to the proper application process to receive a massage license from the city.

Copies of the letters were also sent to the owners of the property, who, according to the release, are seeking to remove the business from that location. The South Portland assessor’s website lists both South Portland Filling Station Inc. and H. Rockwell Prout as owners of the property.

South Portland Code Enforcement Officer Patricia Doucette said although Red Stone Spa has a massage license from the state, it did not apply for the city license required under the South Portland’s massage ordinance (Article 14, Chapter XII).

The purpose of the massage ordinance is to encourage businesses that offer legitimate massage therapy while prohibiting businesses masquerading as massage therapists as a facade for the exchange of sexual acts for money.

According to Clark, no criminal charges will be filed against the owner or manager of Red Stone Spa. He said the department’s investigation began with a few anonymous tips. Police then spoke with neighbors in the area, as well as clients who had been inside the massage therapy center. After those discussions, police determined the spa was in violation of city ordinances.

“We were trying to verify or refute prostitution activities going on. At this point, based on our investigation, what we are able to prove is the ordinance violations as opposed to violation of state law,” Clark said.

Louie, 34, faces three civil violations in Portland District Court on Oct. 16, two for operating an adult use establishment and massage parlor without the proper city licenses, and one for operating an adult use establishment in a prohibited area. Each violation of the ordinances carries a potential fine between $500 and $2,500.

According to Doucette, no businesses in South Portland operate with an adult use establishment license, and in the three years since the licensing process was put in place, none before Red Stone Spa have been cited for operating illegally.

The section of the ordinance that prohibits those businesses from operating in residential areas that contain churches, parks or schools would wipe away most of the area in the city to a business owner hoping to open an adult use establishment. South Portland contains eight primary and secondary schools across the city, and many more public parks in churches.

However, Doucette said there are a few areas near the Maine Mall on the western side of the city where an adult use establishment could conceivably be located.

“The area where it would be permitted would be very limited, but I think we would be looking at that end of town,” Doucette said.

The owner and manager of Red Stone Spa were unavailable for comment at a number listed for the business. As of Monday, Aug. 26, the doors to Red Stone Spa were locked and lights were off in the building, although a sign still covered a portion of the building’s wall advertising $50 massages.

Clark said Louie has adhered to the police department’s request to cease and desist.

“The owner is cooperative and receptive. She understands what’s going on,” Clark said.

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