Three massage parlors in Secaucus have been shut down for alleged fire and health code violations, according to Fire Inspector Carl Leppin. Blue Spa on Route 3 East and Life Health Spa at 1317 Paterson Plank Road were both shut down Monday, Dec. 31. Oriental Spa, located above a restaurant at 1313 Paterson Plank Road, was shut down Friday, Dec. 28. That spa was not officially registered as a business, officials said.
Employees allegedly lacked appropriate certification and massage licenses, and were allegedly sleeping at all three parlors. Alleged fire code violations included blocked exits, improper locks on doors, and possible change in use, which refers to the alleged overnight stays.
Thousands in fines
The Health Department fines could total up to $1,250 per establishment. The potential fire code fines range from $3,000 to a little over $15,000, according to Leppin. The 1313 Paterson Plank Road location also faces a building code fine for $4,000.
“There was a bedroom-like setting.” – Carl Leppin
Inspectors found a mattress at Life Health Spa, a bed at Blue Spa, and employees allegedly slept on the floor at the location at Oriental Spa.
“There was a bedroom-like setting,” said Leppin. “We have pictures of blankets, their nightstand…slippers outside the room [and] clothes.”
Leppin said that indications that people were allegedly sleeping at the locations also included a fully-stocked refrigerator, a kitchen, nightstands, and dressers full of clothing.
Missing massage licenses
“Most of the women were not registered with the town to practice massage therapy,” said Leppin in regard to the Board of Health violations. Of the five to six women who worked at Blue Spa, none were registered with the town and all allegedly lacked massage therapy licenses, officials said. Six women at Oriental Spa allegedly did not have licenses to practice massage.
The municipality has a strict ordinance for massage parlors requiring each employee to be registered with the town, provide proof of license, be fingerprinted, and have background checks performed.
Officials said the women were all adults but did not provide any additional detail regarding their identity or background.
“Our ordinance is pretty clear about not sleeping and staying overnight at places that do massages,” said Town Administrator David Drumeler.
All three massage parlors are listed online on a number of web sites as erotic Asian massage locations that offer services such as “table showers.”
Blue Spa is listed on a massage site that advertises, “Our guide will rub you the right way,” and all three are listed on another web site that encourages visitors to “Find your happy ending.”
In regard to any signs of alleged prostitution, Buckley said, “That is not what happened here.” He reiterated that “These people are alleged to be violators of Secaucus town ordinances.”
Despite the fact that there were no arrests for prostitution, Mayor Michael Gonnelli said the municipality will not tolerate illegal activity.
“It was apparent inappropriate things were happening there,” said Gonnelli. “We are just not going to tolerate it. It brings an undesirable element to the community.”
Drumeler said last week that it is “a lot easier to shut them down for violations.” He said a police investigation into the matter would require them to catch people in the act of performing inappropriate behavior such as prostitution.
“It is easier to send in inspections,” noted Drumeler.
Past massage parlor arrests
In 2010, the Reporter wrote about the town’s crackdown on businesses that allegedly operated as fronts for prostitution. That year, two women from New York were charged with prostitution at a spa in December, and in another incident, five women and one man were arrested for crimes ranging from promoting prostitution to hindering arrest.
In May 2009, a man and a woman were arrested at an acupuncture business on the 1300 block of Paterson Plank Road for allegedly “engaging in sexual activity in the capacity of prostitution,” police told the Reporter at the time of the arrests. Three other women were arrested at the scene for allegedly promoting prostitution. One of these women was also charged with allegedly maintaining a business for the purposes of prostitution.
Going after the “Johns”
Drumeler said that in the future, the town will go after the “Johns,” or customers of any future massage parlors that offer alleged illegal services.
“That will have a chilling effect,” said Drumeler in regard to future police raids that may involve massage parlors.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.