A spa owner whose workplace has been plagued by leaky pipes, the coronavirus and charges of employee prostitution is trying to save her lease, according to a lawsuit.
Businesswoman Zhong Kai Li signed a lease with JDZ Holding for 83-02 Broadway in Elmhurst that was supposed to run from March 2019 through February 2027, the lawsuit claims. She invested more than $100,000 in renovations and opened a spa that offers “body skin care, including body scrubs, and foot rubs” but not massages, according to court papers. The suit claims it mainly serves female customers.
In November the spa started suffering from leaky pipes, which ultimately damaged its toilet and bathroom, but JDZ did nothing to fix the problem, according to the lawsuit. The problem came to a head in March, when a large pipe flooded the building and forced the spa to close, the suit says.
The spa owner repaired the damage herself, but JDZ still has not reimbursed her, according to court papers.
The police then closed the spa on March 12 over allegations that employees had “accepted money in exchange for sexual conduct,” but Li still does not know who these employees are and had no idea that this was happening, according to the lawsuit.
Li says she has “a zero-tolerance policy for sexual misconduct,” and her suit cites an instance in 2015 when police told her that staffers at another spa she ran at 83-12 Broadway in Elmhurst were “engaging in sexual behavior.” The suit says Li promptly fired those employees and worked with the NYPD to make sure it didn’t keep happening, and she would like to take the same actions at her current spa, the lawsuit says. The NYPD declined to comment.
Li received a notice from JDZ in May demanding that she fix her lease violations stemming from the NYPD allegations and pay her rent, water charges and late charges for the month, according to court papers. She says she cannot pay the April charges because of the NYPD closure and the pandemic, but she will pay them once she can reopen the spa.
The lawsuit claims that the JDZ notice proves the landlord never wanted Li to run a business at the building. Rather, it alleges, JDZ just wanted her to renovate the property and now wants to profit off of her work by leasing it to another tenant for more money.
The entrepreneur is asking the court for a declaratory judgment that her lease is still in effect, and an injunction to prevent JDZ from ending it. She is suing for breach of contract, harassment and negligence as well.
Li’s attorney, Steven Beard, did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for JDZ could not be reached.