Has Tampa cracked down on illicit health spas as promised in 2018?

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side exposed how Tampa was failing to end prostitution in nearly a dozen businesses in 2017. Our Storefronts for Sex investigation triggered a crackdown of these illicit health spas. The Tampa City Council passed a bathhouse ordinance to combat human trafficking the following year.

Now, 8 On Your Side examines if the city’s bathhouse ordinance has made a difference.

Our previous investigation uncovered sketchy business practices by women who reported for work wearing lingerie as uniforms in spas up and down Kennedy Boulevard. Our stories sparked the Clean Up Kennedy movement and prompted the Tampa City Council to take action.

Tampa passed new restrictions specifically banning sexual services and limiting hours of operation. Tampa’s new rules also required inspections and made landlords, owners and staff register with the city.

The goal was to combat human trafficking.

8 On Your Side has obtained a list of 21 locations initially given notice about the bathhouse ordinance in 2018. We’ve learned only one business, Sun Spa, obtained a bathhouse permit. It gets inspections and it is legitimate.

The city’s director of planning and development tells 8 On Your Side the other establishments said they’re no longer providing baths. Thus, they don’t need a permit.

Tampa police say they’re not currently working any prostitution cases in the 21 locations either.

Right now, it’s unclear what happened to those businesses. It’s possible they closed down or relocated.

Seven years ago, then-Chief of Police Jane Castor was outspoken about this problem.

“Human trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery,” she stated at a press conference in 2013.

Now, as the Mayor of Tampa, 8 On Your Side wants to know from Castor how much of a problem this is. We have requested to speak with the mayor.

8 On Your Side will continue to follow this story.

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