Niagara Falls has shut down a controversial acupressure spa across from City Hall on Main Street after the city’s Inspections Department ruled the business is a prohibited “adult use.”

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals last week upheld a decision by acting Director of Inspections Guy Bax that Oriental Acupressure, located at 760 Main St., did not meet the zoning laws for the commercial district on Main Street.

The board’s unanimous vote Tuesday to deny approval for the Main Street site followed a contrary decision last year in which it narrowly voted to allow a similar business, Lotus Acupressure Spa, to operate on Third Street.

In that case, the board overruled Bax’s decision that the business did not conform with Third Street zoning rules.

The discrepancy between the two decisions drew concern from a real estate agent that argued before the Zoning Board last week on behalf of the owner of 760 Main St.

“Their ordinances, their procedures are dysfunctional. It’s a failed system,” said Niagara Falls real estate agent Louis Rizzo. “These people are licensed to do acupuncture. Acupressure is a form of acupuncture.”

At issue is a broad zoning law that defines massage businesses as adult uses and bans them from commercial districts, including the Main Street neighborhood near City Hall. While beauty salons and other service businesses can operate in the district, businesses “where massages are administered for pay, including but not limited to, massage parlors, sauna baths and steam baths” cannot. Those businesses are considered adult uses and limited to industrial areas of the city.

The ordinance does not specifically address acupressure, an ancient form of massage that has its roots in China. That has left the city’s staff to make a determination about what type of service an acupressure business provides.

In the case of both Oriental Acupressure and Lotus Spa, Bax ruled that the businesses were considered adult uses. The Zoning Board overruled his decision for Lotus, but upheld it for Oriental Acupressure.

Zoning Board Chairman Vincent Spadorcia said his decision to shut down the Main Street operation, but allow the Third Street business came down to a series of letters the operators of Lotus were able to produce that showed two other spas it runs in Wheatfield and the Town of Tonawanda have not received complaints.

Location, he said, also played into his decision.

“This place is right across the street from City Hall,” Spadorcia said. “The other place is on Third Street. When we did approve it, we did say that police would be patrolling the area.”

However, Main and Third streets are both located in areas designated for commercial use, but neither zone allows adult uses.

Roni Fluxman, a Brooklyn businessman who owns the Main Street property, said the board’s decision will likely cost him the only tenant he was able to find for the two-story office building in more than a year.

“It’s a legitimate business, a clean business,” said Fluxman, who attended the zoning meeting Tuesday. “This lady came in from New York. She’s trying to make a living. She’s invested money. She’s fixed the place up.”

City records show the city inspected the site at 760 Main St. in early December after receiving letters containing advertisements that showed an acupressure shop was operating on Main Street that had not received city approval.

Contact Denise Jewellat 282-2311, Ext. 2245.

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