King's Health Spa, Downers Grove

King's Health Spa on Ogden Avenue was shut down in 2011 after police uncovered prostitution taking place there. (Dawn Rhodes, Chicago Tribune / June 13, 2014)

Downers Grove acted within its rights when two Ogden Avenue massage parlors were ordered closed after police uncovered evidence of prostitution more than three years ago, according to an appellate court ruling

The three-justice Illinois Appellate Court unanimously upheld Downers Grove officials' right to revoke the business licenses of King's Health Spa and Ace Health Spa after police stings in 2011 allegedly caught two employees offering sexual favors during massages.

"The village council and I are extremely gratified that the Appellate Court has recognized the massage parlor problem and the need for strong enforcement of our ordinances," Mayor Martin T. Tully said in a statement. "These businesses are inconsistent with the values of our village. They also diminish the reputation of legitimate professional therapeutic massage facilities."

The owners of the two spas and their attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.

Downers Grove Police and the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group performed stings on both businesses in March 2011. Undercover officers posed as customers wanting a massage and female employees offered to perform sex acts on the officers, village officials said. One woman from each spa was arrested and charged with prostitution.

After administrative hearings, Village Manager David Fieldman yanked the business licenses for Ace at 1911 Ogden and for King's at 930 Ogden.

The owners for both parlors appealed the decision to the Circuit Court of DuPage County. Judge Robert G. Gibson ruled in 2013 that the license revocation for King's was justified and affirmed the village's decision. A different judge, however, overturned the move to pull Ace's license and ordered the village to impose a more lenient penalty.

The cases again were appealed to the higher court to consider whether Fieldman overstepped his bounds by rescinding the licenses.

In the June 11 ruling, justices Kathryn E. Zenoff, Ann B. Jorgensen and Joseph E. Birkett agreed with the village's contention that one ordinance violation for prostitution is reason enough to revoke a business license, because prostitution is such a difficult crime to expose.

"Given the private setting in which massage services are provided, prostitution in a massage establishment could be uncovered only by using the type of police operation that occurred in these cases," Zenoff wrote in the ruling. "The private nature of the provision of massage services highlights the need for strict regulation."

The justices also undercut the arguments from Ace owner Chong Kim, who said that he had no tolerance for prostitution, fired the employee who was arrested and had no knowledge that such behavior was taking place in the parlor.

"Kim's testimony indicated that essentially he was an absentee owner who visited the spa once a month to receive a report from the manager and to pay certain bills," Zenoff wrote. "While revocation of a massage establishment license for a single prostitution incident might be a very strong sanction where the licensee has no history of violations and no knowledge of his or her employees' prohibited conduct, we cannot say that such a strong sanction necessarily is an abuse of discretion."

King's has remained closed since 2011. Ace is still in business because the village's decision to pull the license was delayed while the case was pending. Village spokesman Doug Kozlowski said the village is moving forward with efforts to force the parlor to close. | Twitter: @rhodes_dawn