Public outcry pushes massage parlor out of this Columbia neighborhood

(DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com)
(DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com) Modesto Bee

The owner of a Mauldin massage parlor has withdrawn her request to open one near downtown Columbia.

Yuzhen Zhu had applied with the Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals for a special exception to permit a massage parlor on Beltline Boulevard near Devine Street. The U-Relax Massage parlor would have been located next door to Maurice’s barbecue at 714 N. Beltline Blvd.

City Council member Moe Baddourah said city staff told him the request has been withdrawn permanently.

“It’s a win-win for the neighborhood,” he said. “The big boys of the neighborhood getting together and opposing the special exception is the right move.”

Baddourah said he didn’t know if Zhu’s operation is legitimate or not. But that the presence of a massage parlor in an area that already has tattoo parlors and an adult bookstore would have been harmful to the neighborhood.

“I don’t think we can make this type of business illegal in South Carolina,” he said, “but we can control where they go.”

The parlor would have been near the Shandon, Sherwood Forest, Heathwood and Cross Hill neighborhoods.

Residents of those neighborhoods had organized a large turnout for Tuesday’s board meeting, before learning of the withdrawal.

Zhu, contacted Monday by The State, said she has operated another parlor by the same name at 304A N. Main St. in Mauldin, near Greenville, since 2014. Zhu, whose address and phone number on the special permit application are the same as the Mauldin parlor, said she hasn’t had any trouble with the police.

“Never, never,” she said. “We have very good customer reviews.”

The Mauldin Police Department says it has no records of any crimes committed at Zhu’s massage parlor there.

Jeff Wilkinson has worked for The State for both too long and not long enough. He’s covered politics, city government, history, business, the military, marijuana and the Iraq War. Jeff knows the weird, wonderful and untold secrets of South Carolina. Buy him a shot and he’ll tell you all about them.