Spa Castle's Queens location has finally reopened, after a two-month shutdown that the city mandated when a six-year-old nearly drowned in a pool in February. That incident was one in a string of unfortunate occurrences at the Korean mega-spa: a couple weeks prior, a transgender man alleged that he was barred from using the spa's locker rooms and nude bathing areas, and in 2014, a dead man was discovered floating face down in a hot tub after suffering a heart attack.
In its inspection following February's near-drowning, the Health Department found that the pool vents drew "excessive suction," so much so that the six-year-old was pulled underwater and held there. The investigation further revealed that staff didn't make adequate efforts to resuscitate her (she was reportedly resuscitated by another patron, not Spa Castle staff). When the elderly man was discovered dead in 2014, witnesses similarly alleged that Spa Castle staff weren't immediately clear on how to perform CPR.
According to the Health Department, the College Point facility was given permission to reopen in late April, after it submitted a revised and updated safety plan; corrected and addressed all violations; proved that its staff were properly certified and trained; proved that it had sufficient numbers of staff; and passed a full inspection. The spa also had to update all of its public signage and disclosures to be in accordance with its revised safety plan, and had to meet all Health Code engineering requirements.
"Since the Health Department closed the pools at Spa Castle in February, the establishment has undergone a rigorous process to correct violations and has met our requirement to implement a new safety plan," a Health Department spokesperson said. "The Health Department has also required Spa Castle to sign an agreement that will allow us to intervene swiftly, if the establishment fails to comply with our safety requirements. We will continue monitoring the pools and performing frequent inspections to protect the safety of people who visit this spa."
Queens State Senator Tony Avella warned that the city should be skeptical going forward, and not trust that this will be the end of Spa Castle's problems: he said that while he was glad to see that the Health Department had Spa Castle overhaul its safety protocol, "we should not and cannot expect that Spa Castle will suddenly self-police itself in the absence of oversight."
In a statement, a spokesperson for Spa Castle said that "we have worked with the Health Department for many months and endured a closure that put 150 employees out of work at enormous cost to their families. We have agreed to abide by higher-level safety standards that normally apply only to swimming pools, including the stationing of fully qualified lifeguards. To our knowledge, these standards have been applied to no other similar spa facilities in the City of New York. We welcome all efforts to improve safety and will continue to provide a destination that our guests can rely on. We ask only that such safety measures be applied fairly and across the board."