- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

The neighborhood institution mockingly known as the Love You Long Time Spa at 2352 Wisconsin Ave. NW finally received a visit from law-enforcement authorities last week, and a good time was had by all — gawking residents and well-coifed television personalities who stood in front of the establishment and pontificated at length on air about the den of sin.

Community leaders, vagabonds and gossips have complained for years about the activities taking place in the basement of the building that also houses a legitimate business, the Shutter Shack of Georgetown, whose signage hangs in the front.

And yet, at all hours of the day and night, in plain view of diners sitting on the patios of Bourbon on one side of the spa and Kavanagh”s Pizza Pub on the other, it was business as usual, as men in all shapes and sizes made their way to the place that kind of became a bad joke in the neighborhood.

The joke inevitably ended with a sobering question: How do they stay in business in a city that increasingly monitors every aspect of the human condition, right down to that cholesterol-dripping slice of pizza being stuffed into your mouth? The business also was known as the Venus Spa, Young”s and “that place.” The names may have changed but not the format. Sheepish-looking men, with their hands thrust deep into their pockets and heads down, would make a straight line to the front door of the spa. Soon enough, these same men would scamper from the place, as if propelled by gale-force winds at their backs.

That was the drill year after year, no matter how many complaints were made to the city and no matter how obvious the goings-on were to everyone but the authorities entrusted with shutting down places of ill repute.

It has been a tough couple of public-relations months for the neighborhood, what with the man on fire at Good Guys in early November and the raid on the brothel last week. It is enough to give an otherwise family-friendly neighborhood a bad name in flashing neon.

It is true the Love You Long Time masseuses stayed mostly out of sight, behind blinds that always were drawn closed. And it is also true the neighborhood is mostly bedeviled by male bladders that become especially weak under the cover of darkness and a rat infestation along the commercial strip, which sometimes spills into the neighborhood of row houses, condominiums and apartment buildings.

And there has been something of a disconnect among community leaders, reflexively inclined to stick with a variation of the liquor-license moratorium that comes up for renewal in the spring. That moratorium has led to empty storefronts and discouraged big-name restaurants from taking up residence in the neighborhood.

Curiously, the moratorium was implemented in a neighborhood that has two gentlemen”s clubs, Good Guys and JP”s, and at one point had three massage parlors. Alas, the latter had an easier time taking root in a neighborhood with a struggling commercial strip perceived as less than vibrant.

Whenever the advisory neighborhood commissioners and civic associations attempt to micromanage the marketplace — we could use a shoe store in that location — the result of their well-meaning intentions sometimes has unintended consequences.

You do not get a shoe store or dress boutique or deli. You get a plethora of Asian women taking up commercial space near the gentlemen”s clubs. You get a late-night scene that is antithetical to the daytime crowd of grocery shoppers and residents having coffee at Starbucks and running errands at the post office and hardware store.

Instead, you might have a man on fire on a Saturday night and you might have an undercover officer having a difficult time landing an appointment with the massage parlor, so booked was its calendar.

Rest assured, the spa did not have a liquor license.

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