SOUTH FORSYTH — Nearly three weeks after officials shuttered five massage parlors and cited six others during a sweep of unauthorized such businesses across south Forsyth, one more received a bright green poster on its doors identifying it as closed.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies found Image TLC Massage to be operating illegally after having “very recently” opened and failing to obtain a massage parlor and spa permit from the county.
When deputies showed up to check the business, an employee reportedly attempted to run off but was found outside, the sheriff’s office said.
Once inside the parlor, deputies discovered beds — standard, not massage tables — “clear evidence of employees living inside the business and other obvious signs of illicit activity.”
A new county ordinance that went into effect Jan. 1 aims to remove such businesses from Forsyth, as they often are not up to standards of legitimate massage parlors and have, in surrounding jurisdictions, been fronts for prostitution and human trafficking, officials said.
A grace period was offered until the sweep earlier in March, during which time deputies said each parlor in question was visited and given a copy of the ordinance.
Sheriff’s Maj. Rick Doyle has previously said the ordinance is “meant to protect the legitimate businesses.”
“[District 2 County] Commissioner [Brian] Tam kind of took the lead on it and wrote this pretty lengthy ordinance to firmly protect legit businesses but to clamp down and close the ones that are fronts for prostitution,” Doyle said.
The ordinance prohibits beds with mattresses, windows from being tinted, blocked or covered and customers from entering and exiting via a back door.
It requires a licensed massage therapist to be on scene whenever a customer is inside, employees to be fully clothed and parlors to be open between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
There are 10 massage parlors with permits in Forsyth, he said.
Several business owners were denied permits due to past charges from other counties, according to Sheriff’s Cpl. Robin Regan.
A surge in illegal massage parlors came to Forsyth after nearby jurisdictions enacted similar ordinances, causing business owners to relocate.
Of the additional 15 that were checked on March 11, 11 were issued a total of 18 citations.
This most recent closed site was issued “several citations … our deputies have been conducting continuous compliance checks since the operation earlier this month.”