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Robert Henson estimates that he’s driven past the building at 2396 West Main Street at least 500 times. The idea of anything shady happening inside the doors never once crossed his mind.
Known as Sunshine Spa, last month during a city council meeting, the local acupuncture business was denied a special permit to give massages. This occurred after officials talked over potentially improper activity being conducted there.
No one spoke on behalf of the now-closed business during the meeting. At its conclusion, councilmember Randy Foley moved to deny the exemption after a report from the city’s planning commission revealed potential sexual massages may have taken place there.
Xain Ying Sun, the name on the special exemption application in Salem, differed from Xue Ming Sun, the name that was tied to a business license for a Christiansburg massage parlor of the same name. In May 2021, a prostitution sting by the town’s police department was conducted into the New River Valley business.
After search warrants were executed at three Christiansburg massage parlors after a months-long investigation into complaints of “illicit sexual activity,” a total of five people were charged.
According to city spokesman Mike Stevens, no criminal charges were filed against the Salem business. Additionally, the local police department had no report on the matter.
Mary Ellen Wines, Salem’s City Zoning Administrator, has stated the business needed a special exemption for massages due to no employee having the proper license from the state.
Technically, explained Commissioner of the Revenue Kristie Chittum, a business can operate under a 30-day grace period without the business license by applying for things like a special zoning permit.
The property owner for the building, Peter Ambrosio, has stated he had no knowledge of any nefarious activity going on. When the Salem Times Register went to the building on February 12 as well as the following days, there was no occupancy.
“You hear about things like this in big cities such as Chicago or Houston. When the details of the alleged actions were reported, I was shocked. Absolutely flabbergasted! It this is indeed true…it is really bad. It’s one thing to get caught up in a situation that you were completely oblivious to,” Henson said. “It’s an entirely different thing, however, to know something is wrong and still continue to do it. It’s hard to feel bad for people who knowingly breaks the rules.”