State shuts down shady ‘massage parlor’

By HASKEL BURNS,

A Lamar County massage parlor and spa located in west Hattiesburg has been shut down after an inspection revealed the facility had been operating without a business license for approximately a year.

Yvonne Laird, executive director of the Mississippi State Board of Massage Therapy, said officials from her office initially noticed inappropriate advertisements for services on the website of Sun Relaxation spa, located at 47 Lakewood Loop in Hattiesburg. It was also discovered the business had previously been owned by another individual who was not licensed.

“Normally what we do, when we have an unlicensed individual, we send a letter from our counsel, which is appointed by the Attorney General’s office,” Laird said. “Basically, the letter says that if you feel you should be exempt under our laws, then you need to notify the office. Otherwise, you need to cease and desist operations.”

After Sun Relaxation owners failed to respond to that letter, an inspector from the Mississippi State Board of Massage Therapy – along with officials from a local permitting board and the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office – paid a visit to the spa and conducted another inspection.

“Under state law, the permit departments in the counties and cities are not required to solidify whether that individual is licensed – whether it’s a doctor, a dentist, a massage therapist, or a physical therapist,” Laird said. “Basically, they’re permitting the business, regardless of what that business may be.”

Laird said Sun Relaxation’s website showed pictures of somewhat scantily-clad women, which is in violation of certain laws regarding advertising.

“There’s a provision in our law that states that all advertising in any format – that could be website advertisement, it could be print advertisement, it could be newspaper advertisement – has to be of an ethical and professional nature,” she said. “Based on what we found on the website – and of course, our inspection, which showed there were no licensees present – we determined that another inspection was required, and at that time photographs were taken and so on.

“And then we step back, because we’ve done all we can do. But we’re very fortunate, because Lamar County has always been very progressive in working with state boards, whether it’s ours our another state regulatory board, to ensure that professional and legitimate businesses are operating in their county.”

In addition to the closure, the Lamar County Board of Supervisors recently voted to revoke the commercial zoning status for Sun Relaxation spa, which will disallow the business from operating again unless a zoning change is granted in the future.

“They’re on the line of commercial/residential (zoning), but it’s a converted house on a street with houses,” Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said. “So since they seem to be not be able to operate legally, we’ve revoked that zoning status for them and it’s reverted back to residential.”

Waits said as far as he knows, officials from Sun Relaxation are facing no other charges or punishments.