Ten massage parlors in Bridgeport were raking in the cash by allegedly operating as houses of prostitution until they recently were shut down by city officials, but they weren't the only ones profiting from the illicit trade.
The landlords -- several of them Fairfield residents -- who own the buildings where the alleged sex businesses operated were also making a buck, including developer Sal Dinardo of Fairfield, who has a long history of battling officials in both Fairfield and Bridgeport over his properties.
Bridgeport police and the city's Health Department recently closed 10 of the suspected brothels.
But just days after police slapped "closed" signs on the doors, two of the massage parlors -- Kay's Hong Kong at 602 North Ave., and Chateau Health Spa at 2662 Fairfield Ave. -- were back in business, police said.
The owners of both businesses were arrested and charged with violating the city's massage establishment regulations, but owners of the buildings continued to collect rent.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said massage parlors -- which cater to suburbanites as well as city residents -- aren't the type of businesses he wants in the city.
"We want our city to be a thriving and welcoming place for families, and forward-thinking, growth-oriented businesses. These are not the types of enterprises we want to encourage in our city," Finch said.
DiNardo, of Fairfield Beach Road in Fairfield, owns a number of derelict buildings in the city, but claimed he didn't know one of his tenants was operating an alleged brothel.
"I knew something was there, but I didn't know what it was," DiNardo said of the Fantasy Studio at 536 Lindley St. "When I bought the building, I intended to rip it down to put something else there and now I'm ripping it down."
Next door to Michael P. Brennan's Black Rock bar, Brennan's Shebeen, is the Chateau Health Spa. Brennan, of Sturges Road in Fairfield collects rent from the massage parlor as well as from the manager of the Silver spa in his building at 2746 Fairfield Ave. He did not return repeated calls for comment.
"I'm not talking to you about this," she exclaimed before hanging up the telephone when contacted for comment.
"It's closed now," said Americo Paniccia of Trumbull when asked about the Hawaii Salon in his building at 3482 Fairfield Ave. at the Fairfield line. "They've been there 20 years and I've never had any problem with them."
A woman who identified herself as the owner/manager of Jasmine Salon, at 40 Summerfield Ave., complained that police were "picking" on her.
"This is not fair, we have been here five years and we are not doing anything wrong," said the woman who would not give her name. "I pay my taxes and every morning I go out and pick up the garbage all over the street."
A neighbor, Antonio Aguirre, owner of A&A Used Tires, agreed.
"The lady comes out every morning and cleans the street with a broom, I have never had a problem with them being here, they are good neighbors," he said.
The woman said she is getting a massage license and expects to reopen soon.
Sylvester Salcedo has operated his law office over Kay's Hong Kong for eight years and considers them good neighbors.
"I certainly don't condone exploiting women, but I have not seen any evidence of that going on there," he said. "These are women in their 40s and 50s and their clientele appears to be white middle-aged men in sports coats."
A former U.S. Navy officer, Salcedo said he is not so naive to believe they are only doing massages. But he said he is tolerant of the activities as long as it doesn't cause a disturbance or degrade the quality of life in the neighborhood.
"When I lived in Black Rock there were more problems because of the bars than the massage parlors," he said.
In front of the Osaka Oriental Spa at 3923 Main St. is a plaque mounted on a granite pedestal stating the parlor, along with the small group of businesses there, were the result of a city "streetscape" project in 2007. The owner of the building, Yong W. Kim, of Roslyn, N.Y., did not return calls for comment.