When Brian Hester learned that a neighbor’s dog-walker had observed some “pretty girls” going in and out of 6301 Greene St., he was a bit surprised.
About three months ago, a man named Roberto Carrasco introduced himself to members of the Duval Improvement Association, which Hester heads, and presented plans for a day spa at the location.
The business would, among other things, offer therapeutic massages, according to those at the meeting.
“He wanted to meet with the neighbors and assure people that this was a good business, it was good for the neighborhood and so on,” recalled Hester.
Following the meeting, though, neighbors heard nothing more from Carrasco, nor did they see any activity at the Germantown property. Until the recent sighting, neighbors assumed Carrasco had chosen not to move forward with the business.
Curious, Hester decided to investigate. It was an eyebrow-raising experience to say the least.
“A young girl answered and wasn’t really wearing spa attire,” he said. “It seemed a little off.”
When Hester later visited the website for Relax Body Work, his antennae went way up. The photos of scantily-clad women posted beside the spa’s options left little room for imagination, he said. (The photos have since been removed from a site which still advertises “”Contact us for an appointment or Just Walk-in.”)
It appeared the neighborhood had an adult massage parlor in its midst, an allegation Carrasco says simply isn’t true.
“The guy came up, he had a great presentation and seemed to have his ducks in order, and it turns out he was duping us,” said Hester.
When initially asked to respond to resident allegations last week, Carrasco told NewsWorks, “I haven’t gotten anything from the association,” before hanging up the phone.
In a later interview, Carrasco explained that his website’s photos and his employees’ attire were for “marketing purposes” and that there is “nothing illegal going on here.”
Carrasco said he plans to meet with the association to discuss their concerns. If he feels unwelcome, he said he’ll likely close the business and move on.
“I don’t want to work in a hostile environment,” he said. “Most likely you won’t hear from me.”
The civic group quickly snapped into action, reaching out to 14th District police, Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections.
While the building, which sits at the corner of Washington Lane, looks tailor-made for a business, the property is only zoned for residential use. However, Hester said the place has operated as one business or another for as long as he’s lived in the neighborhood.
“The response has been really good,” said Hester, noting that he’s been told officers plan to investigate.
Police now involved
Capt. Joel Dales with the 14th Police District would not divulge details, but told NewsWorks that the department is “definitely doing an investigation on that.”
In the meantime, the experience has been a big lesson for the association. Moving forward, Hester predicted members will be far more discerning if a similar business proposal ever again comes before them.
“This has definitely raised some caution flags and I’m sure we will become even more vigilant,” said Hester, commending his neighbors’ proactive approach.
Hester said he’s hopeful their actions will result in the business being shut down.
“If the neighbors didn’t go out of the way to look into this,” he said, “it could have operated for years.”