Illegal Davenport massage facility has a surprising new life

Local News

Keeping the pressure on massage parlors.

That’s the motivation behind changing an ordinance being considered by Davenport city council.

The council passed an ordinance in March that required massage therapists to be licensed.

Davenport police cited 14 establishments for violations since then.

Only three of them reopened.

Some buildings are now up for rent and some have been bought by other business owners.

We spoke with one who didn’t feel comfortable showing his face on camera but says he’s still trying to shake the reputation of the previous tenants.

“Daily; four, five times a day people knock on the front door, try to get in the side door,” says Joe DeSalvo, owner of The Hippie Life.

When he moved into the building at 3119 Brady Street in June, DeSalvo started getting customers before his opening day.

“Always asking for a massage,” DeSalvo says.

“The most recent was real late at night, you know, 1:00, 2:00 in the morning.”

DeSalvo also says he’s noticed some odd things in the basement.

“The way the doors were put on, the locks then were facing towards the outside,” he says.

He learned that the former business, Asian Garden Massage, was one of 14 facilities slammed with citations during a crackdown on human trafficking and illegal sex acts.

“[We’ve gotten] some tips just from citizens calling in saying that there’s possibly nefarious activity going on in some of these massage parlors,” says Lt. Jason Smith with Davenport Police.

City council members passed an ordinance in march that gave officers like him the authority to check up on those business complaints.

“Ultimately this ordinance [is] to make sure that people aren’t being taken advantage of. That these women aren’t being turned into victims at these massage parlors,” Lt. Smith says.

Police are teaming up with Family Resources’ Braking Traffik program to make sure survivors get help.

“They were getting them the resources, places to stay, bank accounts to make sure that they were safe and not being targeted,” Lt. Smith says.

And in a turn of events a building that was once a concern for sex trafficking is now a place that helps combat it.

“A portion of everything from here goes towards giving them a safe haven,” DeSalvo says.

He and his wife founded an organization in 2004 called The Home of Grace to help sexual abuse and assault survivors.

“What this place used to be, this building, to what it’s now funding– it’s a great turn,” DeSalvo says.

A spokesperson for Family Resources tells Local 4 News that they have seen an increase in survivors since Davenport’s ordinance was adopted in March.

Police say there’s a loophole in the ordinance that lets some business owners open another massage facility under a different name and go back to breaking the law.

A new amendment was discussed at tonight’s committee of the whole meeting to close those ordinance gaps.

It could take up to six weeks to pass.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.