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Massage parlors in south Forsyth shut down, cited for ordinance violations

SOUTH FORSYTH — Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies conducted a sweep of massage parlors Friday, shutting down more than a dozen that were violating a local ordinance that took effect Jan. 1.

Nearly half of the county’s massage parlors were cited for refusing to bring their business up to the new code.

Though no one was arrested Friday, several property owners were denied permits due to prostitution charges that were uncovered during background checks, officials said.

“This is phase one. We will do different tactics to get other ones,” said Sheriff’s Maj. Rick Doyle.

“It’s meant to protect the legitimate businesses, and [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 down the ones that are fronts for prostitution.”

There are 10 massage parlors with permits in Forsyth, Doyle said. Four others were refused a permit to operate due to past criminal charges.

An additional 15, which “blatantly refused to get permitted,” were the subjects of Friday’s sweep.

Of the 15 checked, 10 were issued a total of 18 citations, all of which were related to the ordinance. No one was charged with criminal activity.

Sheriff Duane Piper said business owners were given a two-month grace period after the ordinance went into effect. In addition, each site was handed a copy of the law by a deputy leading up to the sweep.

The few parlors in the Cumming city limits are not within the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office. However, Piper said deputies are working with Cumming police to enforce violations there.

A business was shut down Friday if there was no licensed massage therapist on site. And that was the case for five of the locations, according to Sheriff’s Cpl. Robin Regan.

They now display a bright green, poster-sized sticker declaring the business closed by the sheriff’s office.

“We don’t want them in our neighborhoods,” Regan said.

Some already appeared to be shut down but were checked anyway because owners often take clients by appointment only and through the back of the building, Regan said.

If the parlor remained open, the owners were issued citations and can be re-issued them every day they continue to serve customers until the business is up to code.

Regan said the ordinance prohibits windows from being tinted black or covered and beds from being inside, among other rules.

The operation was largely a response to a surge of illegally operating parlors in the last few years.

That trend developed after neighboring jurisdictions, notably Johns Creek, enacted similar laws that pushed the businesses to open in other areas.

The majority of Forsyth’s massage parlors in question are located in the county’s south end.

“This is an operation that we’re not going to just stop after one day,” Regan said. “We’re going to continue and make sure these businesses do not operate illegally and do illegal activities in Forsyth County. If they can become legitimate business, obviously we’re OK with that.”