SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- City officials are trying to shut down a massage parlor that municipal leaders say is merely a front for an illegal brothel operating on the fringes of Chinatown and the Financial District.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Tuesday filed for a temporary injunction against Queen's Health Center, located in the 300 block of Kearny Street near Bush Street. The city is pursuing the legal action through the California Red Light Abatement Law, a 1900s-era ordinance that allowed cities to crack down on businesses running criminal enterprises.
The business has been cited for numerous health code violations and has been the subject of police raids during the past six years that city officials have been trying to limit activity at the parlor.
"This is a location that is notorious for prostitution," said John Cote, a spokesman for the city attorney.
Herrera asked a judge to close the alleged brothel for one year and allow the city to auction off its inventory.
"The owner is a scofflaw (and) they have been flouting the law for years," Herrera said. "They're well aware that what they're doing is illegal."
Owner Jie Qin Zhou declined to comment about the city's allegations but she showed KTVU her operating license, vowing to hire an attorney to fight City Hall.
"I walk by it (and) eat here all the time so I had no idea," said Jodi Shelley, who stopped to eat lunch at a restaurant located next door to Queen's Health Center.
"If a place says 'table shower' at least three times on the outside, you know" it's not surprising that it's a brothel, said Sergei Radutnuy, as he walked near the business.
"I heard that (table showers are) not something that you would find at the Four Season's spa," joked Kyle Iwamoto, who was also on his lunch break at an eatery adjacent to Queen's Health Center.
Court documents show that Queen's has posted ads on Craigslist and other sites that advertise erotic services.
In 2012, a reviewer on Yelp wrote: "This is the place where you think of kinky massage . . . you can choose the massage therapist to be nude or in sexy lingerie during the session."
"On various occasions, police investigators found individuals engaging in sex," Cote said. "There was lingerie found throughout the establishment. There were sex toys. They've even had their operating permit revoked and suspended for 60 days yet they continue to thumb their nose at the law."
Herrera said he hopes the injunction request will send a message that San Francisco has no tolerance for brothels. Similar businesses have had their operating permits revoked and have temporarily closed or relocated to other locations.
Herrera said he hopes the city's legal action targeting the center's owner and its landlord will limit their cash flow and restrict their ability to reopen.
By KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty.