News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2007

The sign in front of Top Notch on U.S. 231, where a woman who answered the telephone Monday said 'we give rubdowns.'
Daily photo by Ronnie Thomas
The sign in front of Top Notch on U.S. 231, where a woman who answered the telephone Monday said "we give rubdowns."

What's the rub at Lacey's Spring?
Sheriff to address church meeting on residents' fears of prostitution

By Ronnie Thomas · 340-2438

LACEY'S SPRING — "STOP 'Houses of Prostitution' in Lacey's Spring!"

That's what a flier being circulated in this northeastern Morgan County community says.

The flier promotes a meeting Tuesday night at 7 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, in which Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett will speak.

"Someone from the church called and asked that I come to discuss possible illegal activities, perhaps prostitution, going on in their community," Bartlett said.

Members of the church and others in the community say citizens should be aware of two Lacey's Spring businesses that they contend masquerade as spas but are fronts for prostitution.

"You ... should be aware that we have two 'spas' operating within a few miles of these church doors," the flier reads. "However, their Internet Web sites, blogs and advertisements indicate there is much more happening at these establishments."

Martha Grissett, Bethlehem Church secretary, said the pastor, Al Phillips, also announced the meeting at church Sunday.

One of the businesses, Illusion Spa at 1138 U.S. 231, burned June 30, and authorities called the fire suspicious. Owner Ann Mcelhaney of Huntsville said Monday she may be placing a building at the same site within the next week. Workers cleared the debris and installed a dirt pad.

But Mcelhaney reiterated that Illusion is nothing more than a hot-tub rental business.

“We rent hot tubs, and that’s what we do, and that’s it,” she said. “We’re incorporated in the state of Alabama to operate, and we pay our business taxes.”

Mcelhaney said her business has male as well as female attendants.

“When a customer goes into a room, an attendant hands them a towel and makes sure they don’t fall,” she said, “and we give light rubdowns. We don’t offer massages because we’re not licensed. That’s it.”

Illusion’s Web site said it rents hot tubs and the services of female attendants for $80 an hour, with the two-attendant special costing $140 an hour. It posts photos of seven females.

The other business that the meeting will target is Top Notch, located a mile away at 603 U.S. 231 in the heart of “Gasoline Alley,” just south of Whitesburg Bridge.

‘We give rubdowns’

A woman answered simply “Hello” when a reporter phoned the number listed on the Web site Monday. She confirmed she worked at Top Notch, where “we give rubdowns.” She initially said the business was open, then retreated and said, “We’re closed but we will reopen next week.”

When the reporter asked the reason for closing, she hung up.

Later Monday, no one responded to a knock at the door although a sign reading “Top Notch,” surrounded by multi-colored chasing lights, pointed the way to the building. A lit “open” sign appeared at the front of the building, and another sign read “Parking in rear.”

Someone had backed in a car with a Morgan County license plate, while someone else had driven in a sport utility vehicle with a Tennessee tag.

Top Notch is in the last of four office spaces in a vinyl-sided building. The other three spaces appear to be vacant. A man who did not want to be identified said the building recently sold.

Its Web site said Top Notch opened in 2000 “with the purpose of offering our clients the best service for the best prices. Top Notch brings a Las Vegas style with a Southern feel.”

The prices, the Web site says, are $1 per minute per attendant with a 30-minute minimum, and unscented oils and lotions are used. The Web site says there’s relaxing music, a mirror in every room, romantic lighting, and complimentary water or juice.

In addition to reminding customers about rear parking, the Web site says Top Notch also has a rear entrance.

“Once you have arrived at Top Notch, the attendant of your choice will help you with fulfilling the rest of the fantasy,” the Web reads. “What happens at Top Notch stays at Top Notch!”

A Web page designated “Angie’s page” reads, “I have hired all new attendants featured in Memphis.” Four photos follow.

Bud Nash has operated B&J Family Restaurant across the highway from Illusion for three years. He said he is not a member of Bethlehem Baptist but will attend the meeting Tuesday. He said he staunchly opposes the spas at Lacey’s Spring.

“Scantily clad women from Illusion came in to pick up orders,” Nash said. “I told them that they couldn’t come over here again until they were fully clothed. They complied. I would not have served them if they didn’t.”

Illusion has previously been the subject of prostitution investigations by the sheriff’s office. Following a raid on the spa in 2004, Huntsville police said it was part of a major prostitution ring.

Soon after the fire, Mcelhaney told The Daily, “They tried to hook me to an escort agency. There is no sexual anything. We don’t offer anything sexual at all.”

Morgan County Chief Deputy Mike Corley said Monday that neither the sheriff’s office nor the Criminal Intelligence Division has received public complaints about Top Notch.

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