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Colorado cities find success with ordinances aimed to shut down illicit spas

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- After two years of 13 Investigates reporting on the nearly three dozen illicit massage businesses with ties to human trafficking operating in the greater Colorado Springs area, City Council has finally agreed to look at a way to shut them down.

Aurora, Wheat Ridge, and Commerce City have all adopted local ordinances aimed at getting illicit massage businesses out of their communities in the last few years.

The city of Aurora passed its ordinance in 2018. The ordinance allows the city to inspect and license massage businesses.

"We can screen them out and deal with some of the issues that are specific to these businesses that legitimate massage therapy businesses do not do," Aurora tax and licensing manager Trevor Vaughn said.

Aurora's ordinance requires proper state massage licensing, prohibits employees from living inside the spas, and doesn't allow them to advertise for sexual services. The city was able to shut down all of its illegitimate massage businesses within a year after passing the ordinance.

In 2019, the city of Wheat Ridge took on the issue hoping to shut down their illicit massage businesses. Officials began studying the Aurora ordinance but council members in Wheat Ridge had concerns.

"They said alright well we are concerned one of the chief things we want to make sure is that our legitimate businesses are able to thrive and are not negatively impacted by any ordinance changes," Wheat Ridge Police Department Division Chief Darrel Guadnola explained.

The city of Wheat Ridge asked massage industry professionals, who also wanted the illicit spas out, to help them craft the legislation. Wheat Ridge passed the ordinance in November 2020. That ordinance is already proving to be successful with half of the illegitimate spas packing up and leaving the city within the last few months.

"Our ordinance that was adopted allows us to suspend the license if we see any number of things. So, if we find somebody who is not licensed under DORA operating in that facility their license will be suspended and they won't be able to operate. They will get a hearing within 15 days and will be able to come in and explain that," Chief Guadnola said.

The massage businesses in Wheat Ridge had a 90-day grace period for compliance. The city waived the licensing fee for massage businesses for the first year. The businesses will be required to renew the licenses annually for $25.

"Oftentimes it looked at as sort of simple prostitution scheme and it's really not. The people who are trafficked here illegally, who might not have any way to get out into the community or outreach to law enforcement. You know, when you see living quarters there what it really boils down to is sort of an indentured servitude where the people who traffic these folks here you know they hold their papers and they charge them an exorbitant amount of rent to stay in a place that also operates as a massage business. So a thorough understanding of that is critical," Gaudnola said.

Investigations / Local News

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.



    1. Yes, by all means apologize for calling them illicit Asian spas. Nevermind that 100% of them are illicit Asian spas. The important thing is to never, ever call a duck a duck.

      1. 100% really you don’t know that you racist.
        I’ve eaten at Asian restaurants that we’re not owned by Asians but the names of these establishments would lead you to believe that they were owned by Asians.
        Of course I have no way of being certain but I would venture to Guess that 90% or more of the clients were not Asians, you know all the illegal Johns who supported these businesses let’s not forget about them.
        I would also venture to guess that either hypocrites like you or members of your family have had more than one happy ending.
        The media has dropped the word Asian from describing these places to simply illicit because they realize it was racist.

  1. “City Council has finally agreed to “look” at a way to shut them down”
    And for the last 2 and a half years Colorado Springs City Council and Colorado Springs Police Department’s administration has continued this same statement and still CS City Council and CSPD’s administration continue to do nothing to resolve this issue, not follow the already existing laws, not pass new ordinances like these other cities in Colorado have done and proven are effective. Nope, CS City Council and CSPD’s administration still “looking”.
    A few words come to mind,
    apathy noun
    ap·​a·​thy | \ ˈa-pə-thē \
    Definition of apathy
    1: lack of feeling or emotion : IMPASSIVENESS
    drug abuse leading to apathy and depression
    2: lack of interest or concern : INDIFFERENCE
    complacency noun
    com·​pla·​cen·​cy | \ kəm-ˈplā-sᵊn(t)-sē \
    plural complacencies
    Definition of complacency
    1: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
    When it comes to safety, complacency can be dangerous.
    2: an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction
    worthless adjective
    worth·​less | \ ˈwərth-ləs \
    Definition of worthless
    1a: lacking worth : VALUELESS
    worthless currency
    b: USELESS
    worthless to continue searching
    a worthless criminal
    irreverence noun
    ir·​rev·​er·​ence | \ i-ˈrev-rən(t)s , ˌi(r)-, -ˈre-və-; -ˈre-vərn(t)s \
    Definition of irreverence
    1: lack of reverence
    2: an irreverent act or utterance

  2. Geeze, what’s to look at? It’s working in these other cities! Just adopt it and put it into action immediately! Sounds like more lip service from the city.

  3. It’s okay to kill the unborn. Governments hand out needles to drug addicts who leave them all over our parks. But a little pickle tickle is so awful? Charge them an operating fee to pay for health inspections and move on to something more important.

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