Disputed Tenderloin massage parlor still open 

A massage parlor with a checkered history will not be allowed to reopen as a new business in the Tenderloin — but even after authorities investigated it for human trafficking and prostitution, it continues to operate, to the chagrin of neighbors.

When Phuong Hong Vu, a masseuse at Sun Spa, applied along with Hong Tri Lam for a permit to open a new massage parlor at 801 Geary Blvd., the site of the existing Sun Spa, The City denied the permit. Neighbors, tired of what they deemed a nuisance establishment, lined up to testify against the permit, and Lam and Vu withdrew their appeal of the denied permit.

The City found that the pair did not have sufficient experience in the operation of a massage parlor. Only Vu had worked in the industry before, and two of her previous employers have been cited for prostitution, according to court documents. Vu and Lam’s lawyer, Christopher Hall, was not available for comment Monday.

In letters to The City opposing the change of ownership, neighbors characterized the business as a nuisance. Used condoms and syringes litter the street, according to the correspondence, while unsavory characters proposition neighborhood women. Area business owners claimed that Sun Spa drives away potential customers. No individual neighbors contacted for this story wanted to speak.

Deputy City Attorney Cecilia Mangoba said that preventing the transfer of ownership is a victory in The City’s larger quest to shut down the establishment because it will preserve the legal history of Sun Spa.

"In a lot of these businesses, there’s a lot of turnover and the person starts with a clean slate," Mangoba said Monday. If the ownership was changed, the new business would have no record of code violation with The City, even if the same people ran it and worked there.

The Sun Spa has been the target of investigations by both the San Francisco Police Department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The business was found to be operating as a brothel in June 2006, according to court documents. Its license was suspended for 90 days, but only 30 days of the suspension were enforced by The City. The remaining 60 days were not enforced, pending another violation within a year.

Police reported Monday there is no active investigation into Sun Spa. Sun Spa was not available for comment Monday, but Mangoba said the business is still legally in operation.

"I think the message that needs to go out is that the DPH is taking these applications seriously and is working with the community in a cooperative fashion," City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Monday.

amartin@examiner.com

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