Just around the corner from the Harrison Neighborhood Association is a barren, industrial block stacked with warehouses, empty lots, and vacant buildings.
A couple months back, Dave Colling of the neighborhood association was driving by 250 Fremont Ave. N. when a fresh mess of graffiti on the building caught his eye. The building appeared unoccupied, so he looked up the address to find the owner.
To his surprise, he found ads for an Asian massage parlor called Five Senses. Posted on cryptic sites that promote prostitution services like RubMaps, AdultLook, and EscortFish, the ads came embellished with stock photos of scantily clad Asian women posing on beds.
Colling contacted the city and learned there was no license on record for such a massage, another red flag.
"It's not like there would have been residents around there who would be keeping an eye on it. I'm sure it's a great place to do business," he said. "They were kind of out of the way."
Soon, city inspector Kris Stichter went knocking on the door and found what looked like a spare massage business with a greeting desk in front, as well as a series of individual rooms with their doors closed. Stichter spoke to just one woman at the front desk, who said there were one or two massages under way.
The inspector says she simply informed the woman that the business was unlicensed, and couldn't be operating. Stichter then placarded the storefront with an orange sticker declaring Five Senses closed in violation of city ordinance, and considered the matter closed. There was no inspection report.
That was July 15. Since then, Stichter says she hasn't noticed anything going on at 250 Fremont Ave. N. at all. She didn't contact police, unsure of what the police could do. The city's order was administrative, not criminal.
"Sometimes you just placard it and if they're gone, they're gone," she said.
But Harrison neighbors aren't satisfied. A month and a half after Colling called the city, he hasn't heard back from anybody about what happened, or if there will be a follow-up investigation into possible sex trafficking.
"We don't know what happened to the people who work in there," he said. "We're all just kind of sitting around and no one's telling us anything, how long it's been happening in our neighborhood."
The city records department has no record of police being called to 250 Fremont Ave. N. for anything related to prostitution or sex trafficking.
In 2015, then-Chief Janeé Harteau halted undercover investigations after three prostitution cases were thrown out because judges took issue with officers going too far and accepting hand jobs from female masseuses before initiating arrests. At the time, the city decided to rely on business licensing to chase away illegal massage parlors. Minneapolis Police have not resumed the stings.
The building where Five Senses was operating is owned by Lloyd's Construction Services in Savage, a family business since 1983, and used to store scrap. Jim Lloyd said he bought the building last year, inheriting tenant who -- as far as he knew -- ran a "wellness center" that would sell natural herbs and do acupuncture.
It wasn't until he saw the city's sticker that he realized that the tenant, Chung Han, didn't actually have a license.
"I was definitely surprised," Lloyd said. "When we bought the property, they were in there for three years before that, I believe. We just acquired this lease, and their lease expires soon, and I do not intend on renewing."
Han did not respond for comment.
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