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Property row over 'fully-clothed' Chinese massage parlour plan

By Carl Jackson | Birmingham | News | Published:

A bid to open a massage parlour providing an ancient form of Chinese therapy has become embroiled in a property row and concerns over illegal workers.

65a Lower Essex Street Birmingham

HJ 688 won its application for a massage and special treatment licence from Birmingham City Council on Monday for plans to open Rohdea Health and Wellbeing Club on the first floor of 65a Lower Essex Street in the Gay Village.

They want to practise Tui Na, a form of Chinese medicine similar to acupuncture, where practitioners use the pressure points of their thumbs, fingers and elbows – as opposed to needles – to provide body therapy.

They confirmed that the treatment is generally performed on "fully-clothed" customers.

But the application is seemingly at the centre of a stand-off between building owners Gooch Estate – who objected to the proposal – and leaseholders Hong Pringle-Luo who are sub-letting it to the new parlour.

Immigration issues

Concerns surround claims that immigration officers raided the premises last year finding illegal workers sleeping on the first floor at the property.

In a statement submitted to the council Gooch Estate said that Hong Pringle-Luo "have shown themselves to have been involved in unsatisfactory business practises in the past" and therefore they were "concerned over the future use of the premises".

The property owners also said they had previous "experience of licensed premises being used for erotic massages" and "nothing had been done to close down the establishment".

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Neighbouring manufacturing business W.G. Eaton also opposed the new parlour stating the applicants were "not an established and reputational (sic) massage business" adding that their own staff were "very unsettled by two raids" on the building last year when the Home Office "found six adults living on the top floor in poor conditions".

Steven Pringle, of Hong Pringle-Luo, addressed the concerns in front of a council licensing sub-committee deliberating on the application.

'Sub-tenants to blame'

He said that a previous sub-tenant, who ran a kitchen manufacturing firm from the building between 2015 and 2018, was responsible for the immigration issues.

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Mr Pringle said: “We weren’t informed or contacted by immigration services because it has nothing to do with us, but as soon as we found out we removed the tenants, they were removed from the premises, they had 30 days to clear out and that was that.”

He added: “We take responsibility for the fact we allowed them to come in, but we didn’t know what was happening.”

Mr Pringle went on to claim that both objectors had an "ulterior motive" and said: “As far as making a complaint here, it is fairly obvious they are trying to put pressure on us to sell back the lease.”

He added: “Obviously the issues in the past with that premises had nothing to do with either ourselves Hong, the leaseholder, or what’s going forward.

“What’s being proposed here is something the applicant [business director Xue Yue Jiang] believes Birmingham needs with its student population.

“She hopes the business will grow, she hopes to be part of the community, it’s a large Chinese community and this is a significant part of Chinese culture.”

Committee chair Cllr Nicky Brennan (Lab, Sparkhill) confirmed the application for the parlour was granted adding that councillors were satisfied there was ‘no link’ between the leaseholders, the applicants and immigration problems of the previous sub-tenants.

The claims regarding illegal workers were not disputed by any party but the Home Office has not responded to a request from the LDRS to confirm and provide further details of the 2018 raids.

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson
@CarlJackson_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham City Council.

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