Two massage parlors may lose their licenses after employees were arrested on suspicion of prostitution in recent weeks.
The South Pasadena City Council, which in recent years has wrestled with concerns about a proliferation of massage parlors, scheduled hearings regarding the businesses for March 7.
South Pasadena police arrested Massage Villa owner Ling Ling Kuo, 44, of Alhambra on Feb. 10 on suspicion of operating a disorderly house.
Two of his employees were also arrested: Xiaosu Xu, 25, of Diamond Bar, on suspicion of prostitution, and Li Jie Cui, on suspicion of interfering with an investigation.
King Spa Massage owner Mengdong Wang, 36, of Monterey Park was arrested Jan. 27 on suspicion of operating a disorderly house. King Spa worker Ping Li, 49, of West Covina was arrested on suspicion of prostitution.
The question of the massage parlors' licenses is separate from any charges the Los Angeles County district attorney's office may bring against the women and their employers, city authorities said. But the fact that prosecutors have not filed cases or won convictions gave pause to some members of the council.
Council members Marina Khubesrian and Richard Schneider expressed concern about moving to revoke the business licenses before a criminal investigation is complete.
Councilman Philip Putnam, on the other hand, said he believes the city should move forward.
"It doesn't have to be a criminal violation," Putnam said. "I don't think we should let conduct that would be detrimental to South Pasadena continue."
Massage Villa and King Spa continue to operate while the matters are pending.
Jeffrey Bell, a lawyer representing King Spa, said there was some uncertainty about what had occurred. He emphasized that prosecutors had not filed any charges.
Wang would like to "see if there's something the establishment can do to resolve the problem" before losing its license, Bell said. "Give us an opportunity."
South Pasadena has tried recently to curb the number of massage establishments in town. Last year, the City Council looked into requiring owners of new massage parlors to apply for conditional-use permits.
The requirement, which would also apply to new nail, hair and tanning salons, would limit where the businesses could operate.
South Pasadena has 15 massage businesses, according to a staff report. There are no pending applications for new business licenses by massage parlors, according to the report.
Police Chief Joseph Payne said authorities were tipped off about the possibility of prostitution by two websites where customers offered reviews of services rendered. The city then conducted an undercover compliance check, which Payne said is routine.
"We also routinely monitor websites that in my opinion are designed to promote the business," Payne said. "These websites are graphic and describe unlawful conduct."
One such site posted a review from a purported King Spa customer who claimed to have twice received sexual favors from a masseuse there, though the reviewer was hoping for even more.
"Sadly, she does not seem to offer anything beyond" that service, the review said.