FREMANTLE council has approved a controversial massage parlour in South Terrace that locals spent hundreds of hours surveilling to prove it was offering sexual services on the side.
Despite the owner’s entreaties to the council it was a legitimate massage service, the approval comes with an official warning that any hanky panky will be referred to police – and an unofficial caution that Freo locals have been known to picket unwanted brothels until they move out.
Koyuki Sakura set up shop in the new M28 building on the corner of South Terrace and Charles Street about a year ago, but without the necessary council approvals.
Following complaints from neighbours the council forced the business to close its doors because even a legitimate massage parlour didn’t qualify as an “office” under the city’s planning scheme.
The owners applied to rezone the site to “shop” but that was knocked back by the council’s planning committee in December last year, prompting an appeal to the State Administrative Tribunal and an offer to operate under a 12-month trial to prove themselves.
That prompted further sleuthing from locals, led by South Fremantle Precinct co-convenors Lisa Barnes and Gina Blackmore, who gathered evidence of online reviews praising the parlour’s happy endings and comments from neighbours. Those included reports from residents of M28’s apartments who said the walls weren’t thick enough to mask what was really going on.
Alan Mason lives directly above Sakura, and when the item came back before the council this week for a reconsideration of its original decision, he told councillors customers were being ushered into the parlour through the garage, particularly outside the parlour’s official trading hours.
“We don’t want to see Fremantle as a red light district,” Mr Mason said.
“We have lots of families in the complex; single women who work different shifts who don’t want to encounter strange people walking through the garage.”
Ms Barnes told the council Koyuki had affected the neighbourhood’s amenity.
“South Fremantle has a vibe; if you go along South Terrace it’s full of people who are young and wild and very free.
“They wear what they want to wear, they do what they want to do, and they be whoever they want to be,” Ms Barnes said.
“There are many young families – mine included – and elderly people living in harmony with that very vibrant crowd.
“It’s a beautiful blend and we don’t want the area to become a seedy sex destination.”
Sakura is directly across the road from the long-established Ada Rose brothel and The Local Hotel and Ms Barnes said she was concerned condoning the business could put young women visiting the area at risk.
“How’s that going to impact on South Fremantle as a ‘sextination’.”
Councillor Andrew Sullivan said it was a difficult decision as councillors could only vote on the application before them and the owner’s assurances, rather than the possibility of illegal activities. But he recalled a West End establishment facing weeks of protests by locals before the madam gave up and moved away.
Councillor Rachel Pemberton moved the amendment to include the official warning, but said it was disappointing the council was having to make a decision in such a grey area because a reform of WA’s prostitution laws and its mooted “containment policy” had gone nowhere after initial progress when Jim McGinty was attorney general more than a decade ago.