Last week, Jenkintown Borough Council voted unanimously to revoke the use and occupancy permit for the Sunshine Oriental Health Spa — the much-maligned business located at 111 Old York Road.
But, according to Jenkintown Borough Manager Carolyn Hanel, the business is still open, even though it was served with a notice of violation on June 5. In fact, she said she thinks the business was open that night.
“Because they are continuing to conduct business, that’s why council and the solicitor decided to file documents to get a preliminary injunction and ultimately a permanent injunction to shut this business down,” Hanel said yesterday.
The business, which received its use and occupancy permit in 1994 to operate a massage parlor, has long been a source of gossip in the neighborhood; Hanel, who has been with the borough since August, said there were a lot of “complaints, rumors and innuendos” regarding the spa, but not all of the complaints materialized into police reports.
The complaints were confirmed, though. In 2005, 2008 and 2011, undercover county detectives arrested several of the women working at the spa in a prostitution sting.
Jenkintown Police Chief Al DiValentino said Jenkintown Mayor Ed Foley was concerned about the spa as well; he said Foley was particularly interested in making sure there was no human trafficking happening at the business.
“He asked us to look for any information that would indicate that there was human trafficking happening,” DiValentino said. “As far as we know, there wasn’t."
So why now take action now?
According to Hanel, borough council started discussing the issue of whether it should revoke the business’s permit in August.
“Council was discussing issues related to the spa to see if, in fact, it there was illegal activity happening there,” Hanel said. “We just found the original use and occupancy permit — the original from 1994 — that had the conditions and we realized that the permit had conditions, and we then had grounds to shut the business down.”
The permit has two conditions: borough officials could inspect the business at any time; and any conviction in the Pennsylvania crimes code would result in the permit being revoked.
According to the Hanel, the owner of the spa said she was unaware of any illegal activity happening at the business, and said that all of the business’s employees were independent contractors.
Jenkintown Borough Solicitor Sean Kilkenny filed with the Court of Common Pleas on Friday, June 8 seeking a preliminary injunction requiring the spa to cease and desist business.
The owner, Lois Zisholtz, according to a borough press release, has 30 days to file an appeal with the zoning hearing board, Hanel said; the owner could then appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.