Wonderland Asian Massage will almost certainly be closing up shop in Hopkins—but the circumstances under which the business will leave aren’t exactly clear.
Hopkins City Council members were decidedly against letting Wonderland stay in the city after Tuesday’s license revocation hearing. However, they were less comfortable with a license revocation that could keep the owners from getting a license in another community.
They’re now giving them a week to cancel their own licenses—or else face formal revocation that could keep them from starting another massage establishment elsewhere.
Hopkins staff asked the council to revoke the business license of Wonderland owner Julio Alaniz and the massage therapist license of his wife, Yang Yu, because they employed unlicensed masseuses.
City ordinances require massage establishments to have a city business license and for the masseuses who work there to also have individual city massage therapist licenses.
A.L. Brown, the attorney for Alaniz and Yu, did not dispute that they failed to follow the ordinance. Although Wonderland was only licensed for one masseuse, police found at least three masseuses there during a two-week period starting April 21. Two of the women did not have a city license.
Still, Brown said it was a simple mistake from people who were starting a new business. Wonderland just launched in February, he noted. He asked the council to have mercy and impose some penalty short of revocation.
“This is a rookie mistake in operating a business,” Brown said.
That didn’t go over well with the council, though. Said Mayor Gene Maxwell:
We’re trying to build a community that’s respected and well thought of. It just kind of contradicts that if you just let businesses run around and just do what they want to do and then say, ‘Well, it’s too bad because you didn’t understand the law.’ There’s too much of that going on through this whole scenario. … Somewhere along somebody has to stand up and be accountable for a lot of different things that they do, mistakes that they do. I’m for one saying that they have to be held accountable for the mistakes that they did.
Wonderland’s case wasn’t helped by a similar proceeding against Alaniz in Eagan, where he owns Heavenly Asian Massage. The Eagan City Council voted to conduct an administrative review of alleged ordinance violations at the business. The council could have revoked the business license and the license Yu holds there—but it wound up dismissing the cases, according to Brown.
Brown contends that the Eagan case demonstrates that the license oversight was an honest mistake. He said it would’ve been more suspicious if Alaniz and Yu had their paperwork squared away in one place and not the other.
But Councilwoman Molly Cummings countered that those mistakes—along with actions like advertising in sexually explicit back pages—adds up.
“It’s the cumulative list of problems that gives me pause here,” Cummings said.
There has been no evidence of any sexual activity at either the Hopkins or the Eagan establishment.
Formal license revocation could keep Alaniz and Yu from getting a license elsewhere by registering as an “adverse action” when another city performs a background check. However, they wanted a little more time to think over whether to willingly turn in their licenses. Brown noted that they have a significant financial investment in the business and would be stuck with the lease if forced to close.
“I just don’t want them to feel as though they have to make this decision in the hallway,” he said. “I mean, this is their business. They may not have operated it well, but they had high hopes for it.”
If they decide not to turn in their licenses, the council will vote on revocation at its June 4 meeting. The members’ comments Tuesday indicated that they would vote in favor of revocation.