County zoning enforcers were surprised when they raided a Linthicum massage parlor: They never expected the place to be so nice.
"It'sno run-of-the-mill outfit," said County Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum, who accompanied county police and zoning officials on Thursday night's raid, which closed down the establishment.
Bachman, leader of a recent crusade against illegal massage parlors, said the spa was a clean, decent-looking place with sophisticatedfacilities.
"They have one of those Norwegian steam bath rooms, with a lot of water on charcoal . . . They have a sauna; that sucker must be four feet high. They have a shower, (with slabs) which looked to me like imitation marble."
Zoning inspector Joanne Coleman-Casey also was impressed. "It was definitely different," she said. "It's not sleazy. It's very nice."
V.I.P. and the Rose Oriental Spa in Hanover, also raided and shut down last week, have been running massage parlors in areas not zoned for such activity, said Richard Josephson, acting zoning administrator.
Police vice squads have been investigating the parlors for more than a year and observed female masseuses manually stimulating male clients. Because that sexual activity isnot covered under solicitation laws, Bachman has introduced legislation banning masturbation-for-sale.
The V.I.P. raid was carried out8:30 p.m. Thursday by six vice squad officers and Coleman-Casey. Armed with a search warrant, they found the items Bachman described, eight massage rooms and "quite a bit of baby oil and talcum powder," Coleman-Casey said. They also found maps directing clients to hotels in the Baltimore-Washington area.
Three young women were working. Twomale clients were "sitting on the edge of the rubbing table" when police walked in, Bachman said. One was nude, the other had a towel around his waist. Police questioned them and let them go.
No arrests were made and nothing was seized, police said.
Zoning officials are investigating signs that female employees may have violated zoning laws by living at V.I.P. and Rose Oriental Spa. At V.I.P., a women was cooking a Korean dish on portable kitchen equipment when the raid began, police said. There also were beds apparently not used for massage.
"We found food and eating equipment in there. Now, you just don't get that in a massage parlor," Bachman said.
What police did not find at V.I.P., which received a zoning certificate of use as a health club, was exercise equipment.
V.I.P.'s owner, George Pappas of Cockeysville, could not be reached for comment. Neither could KyongTrentzch of Baltimore, who owns Rose Oriental Spa, 7484-E CandlewoodRoad.
Bachman said he has told zoning officials to perform daily inspections at V.I.P. and Rose. If the parlors open despite the orders, they could be fined up to $500 a day.
The establishments may reopen if they offer permitted uses.
"But in this case we're probably going to want to go over these places with some additional scrutinyto make sure they are not setting up something which will cause themproblems in the future," Josephson said.
Staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this story.