JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Jan Warner is the owner of one of Lavida Massage’s nationally marketed franchises, and she says she has more reason than anyone to see the city’s illegitimate “massage parlors” closed down. But that does not excuse the city’s treatment of her establishment, she said.
“We had a person on vacation and I was working the front desk when a Johns Creek police officer [later identified as a code enforcement officer] parked right outside the door and left his car’s lights flashing, came in and demanded to see my customer logs,” Warner said.
She said she was humiliated in front of her customers at the tone of the officer.
“I had to explain to him that I don’t keep logs of customers, but we have all of our client information on computer,” she said. “I told him I was not going to show him that. That would violate the customers’ privacy.”
The brouhaha came as a result of the city cracking down on what it says are massage parlors thinly disguising prostitution activity in the city.
Lavida Massage is a legitimate and respected franchise across the country, and Warner had a right to be upset, said Johns Creek City Manager John Kachmar.
“That’s the other side of the equation as we try to deal with this problem,” Kachmar said. “We have to make sure we treat all massage businesses the same. We don’t want a lawyer for a massage parlor we are prosecuting to say that only certain establishments are targeted.”
That is why the officer was at Warner’s place of business last week. The city is visiting all businesses to check the record-keeping that the city ordinance requires.
Kachmar acknowledged the code enforcement officer did leave his lights flashing – which did draw attention – and that the officer should have been more polite. He said he assured the officer was not a policeman, as Warner thought at the time.
The flashing lights were yellow not blue and should be a tip off.
“She simply did not want to show her computer records, and we should not have asked to see them,” Kachmar said. “She had every right to be upset.”
However, the city ordinance requires a log of some kind for customers, and Kachmar suggested some sort of sign-in sheet to comply. Warner balked at that, saying even that could be an invasion of her customers’ privacy.
But Warner did say she was interested in supporting the cleanup of illicit massage parlors in the city.
“They give the legitimate massage and spa businesses a bad name. I want to be a part of the solution. But I certainly don’t want my customers bothered, nor do I want to be treated the way that officer treated me,” she said.
Recently, more than 50 residents came to a Johns Creek City Council meeting complaining of a proliferation of 10 to 12 darkly lit massage parlors that advertise being open until 10 p.m. and apparently stay open much longer.
The city has tried sting operations that have met with only limited success.
Police Chief Ed Densmore says such stings require a lot of time and personnel, and then only end in the arrest of the masseuse, who is often little more than a slave to those who operate these dens.
“The owner and the [madam] can continue to operate the business while the girl is immediately bailed out of jail and her fine paid. Fulton County doesn’t have the space in jail to house prisoners arrested for what is a misdemeanor.”