Massage Parlors Sue City of Dallas

The January issue of the “print product” will contain a fascinating story (if I do say so myself) written by Thomas Korosec about how two women came up with an ingenious tactic for shutting down the city’s brothels. We’ve put it online early because WE’VE GOT BREAKING NEWS. The brothels — er, massage parlors — are fighting back.

The gist of it is this: the city had been filing civil lawsuits against massage parlors to have them declared public nuisances and shut down, but that wasn’t working very well. For one thing, it’s tough to figure out against whom the suit should be filed. The massage parlors are often set up in a complicated web of shell businesses. So a cop and city lawyer hit on the idea of presenting evidence of prostitution and unlicensed massage to the city building officials and asking that the business’s certificate of occupancy be revoked. Padlock the doors, and the owner has to come to the city rather than the other way around. The strategy has proven very successful.

Well, now the massage parlors — or relaxation spas or whatever you want to call them — are claiming the city isn’t playing fair. The suit, filed December 11, amounts to a class action brought by the best and brightest in the rubbing business: Hai C Vu (doing business as Blue Star), Sangwan Anusan (dba Aloha Spa and Cleopatra Day Spa), Soon D. Yoon (dba Hawaii Spa), Antonia Flores (dba Jasmine), Phaiboon Promniang (dba Moon Night), Reginald Villavidendio (dba The Passion), Sok Un Ng (dba 333 Bodyworks), and Larry Keller (dba 7th Heaven). It saddens me that none of the complainants is named Long Duk Dong and has a parlor named Happy Ending. But let’s keep moving.

The complainants say that the city is revoking certificates of occupancy without due process. Furthermore, they say, the city code’s definition of “massage” and “massage establishment” are no good. As they put it in the filing:

Both definitions, and thus City’s Regulations, are facially overbroad and vague. These definitions would, for example, include the activities of all personal trainers/assistants at gyms that assist customers with the use of the gym’s equipment, yoga or similar instructors, or even a clerk assisting a customer with a shoehorn while trying on a pair of shoes. Further the definition of “massage” found in City Code section 25A-1(c) illegally includes, and thus illegally regulates, every electric dryer in every public restroom because the hand dryers are included in the definition of “massage” as written.

Listen, I’m not a lawyer. But read the lawsuit for yourself. This William A. Bratton III, attorney for the complainants, is no slouch. The guy’s got some flair. On behalf of his clients, he’s wants chapter 25 of the City Code declared unconstitutional, a permanent injunction, and unspecified damages. From where I sit, the city’s got a good fight on its hands.

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