Spas close, activity drops after report
Two owners apparently shutter massage parlors; city says it is still probing complaints.
By BRIAN PETERS‚ Rockford Register Star
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ROCKFORD— The sign on the door of the Rainbow Health Spa on East State Street says “water problems temporarily closed.”
The door at the Paradise Health Spa at 278 N. Phelps Ave. is locked and neighbors say the business has been closed since last Tuesday.
Both spas, along with a handful of others, have come under scrutiny after a Rockford Register Star investigation this month found possible links between these Rockford spas and a loosely organized prostitution ring that reaches from New York to Los Angeles.
Neighbors and city officials say activity has dropped significantly since the paper’s report was published on Oct. 13. The two closings appear prompted by the owners themselves. The city, though, continues to look into complaints, said city spokesman John Strandin.
There was no indication Wednesday that the Paradise and Rainbow closings are permanent; attempts to contact the spas’ owners were unsuccessful.
Either way, the closures come as welcome news to Ald. Robert Greene, R-1, whose ward includes both spas.
“I’m hoping it’s a permanent closure,” Greene said. “The other thing is the publicity, I think, put the spotlight on these illegitimate businesses and all of a sudden all the bugs crawl back under the rocks.”
Aldermen next month may look at tightening ordinances regarding massage parlors to make it more difficult for them to operate and locate just about anywhere in the city.
The closing of the Rainbow Health Spa, 4734 E. State St., may be tied to a failed effort by its owner to sell the business. The owner, listed in city documents as Ok Yon Klinge of Rockford, contacted the property manager to secure a new lease for an interested buyer, said Rockford lawyer Armour Beckstrand, who represents the estate of the property’s owner, Earl Palmgren. Palmgren died a year ago.
The owner “told me that the would-be buyer was a licensed massage person,” Beckstrand said. “And I wanted no part of that. And I will not have any new lease with anyone who’s operating a massage parlor.”
Beckstrand said he received the call a few weeks ago. The owner has leased the space at the back of the small retail mall for about three years, Beckstrand said.
The spa has another two years on its lease but Beckstrand said he would let the owner out of the lease if asked: “If they want out, I’d sure let them out.”
Other spas that remain open include the Panorama/Sakura Health Spa, 4415 Harrison Ave.; Royal Health Spa, 4103 S. Main St.; Osaka Spa, 4215 E. State St.; and the Tokyo Oriental Health Spa, 1538 Broadway.
Last month, a building inspection of the Rainbow Health Spa found that the women employees were also living there, a violation of city ordinance and an indication, experts say, that these operations mirror others around the country that rotate women from all over the country.
A city inspection of the Royal Health Spa found a similar problem in February 2002.