By Ed Runyan
Unsuk Cho, owner of Sunny Spa on East Market Street, says the recreational-massage-parlor ordinance Warren City Council approved Jan. 25 will cut her revenues by 40 percent.
In a lawsuit Cho and the owners of eight other massage parlors filed against the city Friday, Cho says the revenue loss will result from the part of the ordinance that requires the businesses to close from midnight to 6 a.m.
“Approximately 40 percent of the business revenue from Sunny Spa and the other [parlors] is generated between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.,” the suit says.
That, coupled with new fees “will, in all likelihood, render the business so unprofitable ... so as to make it prohibitive for any of the establishments to continue in business,” Cho said.
The lawsuit, filed by Warren attorneys Daniel Keating and Gary Rich, says the ordinance “constitutes an arbitrary and unreasonable action, without any substantial relations to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare of the community.”
The suit says the nine parlors have operated in Warren for more than a decade “without violation of the law.” The city’s new massage-parlor ordinance is “a veiled attempt to close the licensed business establishments through excessive and unreasonably expensive regulatory costs,” the suit says.
The ordinance raised the annual licensing fee for each parlor from $750 to $1,800, and the annual fee for each massage therapist from $65 to $640.
The suit seeks to stop the city from enforcing the new ordinance and seeks damages of $25,000 or more for each of the parlors.
In addition to Cho, the parlor owners filing the suit were Euiwhan Oh of Moon Night Spa on Youngstown Road; William P. Nguyen of Fantacy Spa on Youngstown Road; Seung Talk Oh of Youngstown Road, Hong Kong Spa on West Market Street; William B. Ketchum of Vienna, Fuji Spa on Parkman Road; Richard R. Thompson of Girard, Hot Sun Spa on West Market Street; Barbara Kim of Tokyo Spa on Parkman Road; Myong Sun Chin of Ocean Health Spa on North Road; and Tiger Spa on West Market Street (no name given for owner).
Judge Peter Kontos of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court will have the first hearing in the matter at 10 a.m. today.
On the night the legislation was unanimously approved by council, city Law Director Greg Hicks acknowledged that he discouraged Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold from limiting parlor hours and adding educational requirements in the ordinance because of the legal challenge that might result.
Hicks also said Atty. Jim Ries, his deputy law director, spent more time on the massage-parlor legislation than any other in his 36 years with the city.
Ries said Monday he is looking over the suit and preparing for today’s injunction hearing.
Nate Brown, an organizer with the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, which had demonstrations last year to encourage council to adopt legislation with “teeth,” said Jan. 25 he expected the parlors to sue, but he also expected the city to win the legal battle.