A city committee has voted to block a massage parlor seeking to open at 401 W. Lake St., citing undisclosed financial dealings with a woman whose license was previously revoked.
According to city staff, the applicant behind “Massage Meadows” also owns Burnsville Bodywork, where ads on Backpage.com show provocative photos of women in lingerie with phrases like “Brand New and New Pretty Young Girls.” The owner said such advertising is normal practice, according to a city report. City officials disagreed.
“…When you have ads on Backpage.com for your business, do you think that has to do with prostitution or that generally has to do with regular massage? I’ve never had a regular massage that I signed up for off of Backpage.com,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman at a Jan. 3 hearing.
City staff also pointed to a Burnsville Bodywork employee’s phone number on multiple websites used to recruit workers from New York and California with promises of earning $7,000 per month. The owner reportedly told city staff that employees actually make about $1,000 per month, plus tips.
“…Ms. [Yuanping] Huang has been using aliases to recruit Chinese women from different states using promises of making unrealistic amounts of money, which leads the office to believe that the applicant and Ms. Huang may be involved in activity of sex trafficking outside all of the statutes and ordinances that prohibit that,” Grant Wilson, the city’s Manager of Business Licenses, said.
At the hearing, Massage Meadows owner Patrick Orth questioned the city’s claims about luring women to the Burnsville business. He also questioned the city’s reliance on Google translator.
“I don’t accept the facts that they claim are facts,” he said.
City staff said Orth did not disclose payments from Huang, whose massage license for Uptown Bodywork at 515 W. Lake St. was denied in April 2015.
“The $33,000 payment to the applicant we believe shows that Ms. Huang paid the applicant for the ability to use his name on the application and not for construction services,” Wilson said.
Orth said Huang paid him for painting her house and other construction work. He said Huang works at the Burnsville business and isn’t involved in the Minneapolis application.
“I just don’t see the proof that … she paid me off for a shop that I didn’t know about until like three months later,” he said.