After reopening some of its gyms across the city earlier this month, the company that owns New York Sports Club announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday. Town Sports International, which also runs Boston Sports Clubs, Lucille Roberts, and other fitness brands, said it will restructure the company and continue to operate “so our members will not recognize a break in service.”
But some NYSC members who are not yet ready to go back to the gym say they’re more concerned about getting a break on their membership fees.
Town Sports was hit with a class-action lawsuit earlier this year for continuing to charge monthly membership fees after gyms were forced to close due to COVID-19 in mid-March. At the time, NYSC members noted that they were still being charged the standard $15 monthly fee to suspend their accounts or a $40 cancellation fee.
NYSC reached an agreement with State Attorney General Letitia James in late April to freeze memberships and reimburse members for fees charged while the gyms were closed.
But this month, the AG’s office got a wave of new complaints from NYSC members saying their accounts had been automatically unfrozen and charged on September 1st when some of the franchise’s locations reopened in New York City. A spokesperson for the AG’s office told Gothamist on Monday that, despite the agreement reached in April, their investigation into NYSC never closed and they are continuing to look into new complaints.
New York Sports Club some crooks.. Already taking out membership fees and the gym not officially open yet 😂🤦🏽♂️ @NYSC
— Mone (@Mone_Boogie) September 1, 2020
— Kait Pirie (@KJPirie) September 2, 2020
NYSC member Linda Pricci of Queens is one member who said she got charged on September 1st despite suspending her account in March. She said she had trouble getting through to anyone at the gym by phone when she noticed the charge on September 3rd but ultimately got it waived and got her account suspended until January for free after multiple emails and phone calls.
“I made this stink and disputed the charge and made all these phone calls but a lot of people probably don’t go through with that effort so they probably made a lot of money off of a lot of people,” Pricci told Gothamist. “Who knows the amount of money they’ve made. A lot of people might bite the bullet and say, ‘Well, they are open so I can’t argue with them.’”
The NYSC website advises members to visit a gym in person to request a suspension and reads, “To ensure proper billing, please request your suspension at least 2 business days prior to your billing date” — something that would have been impossible for the month of September.
On Monday, Pricci said she got an email from Town Sports International saying that it would give all members 45 days free of all dues.
“That made me laugh because they’re saying they appreciate us, but no, everybody called and flipped out on them for what they did,” Pricci said.
Town Sports International did not respond to a request for comment on the new complaints.
In a statement on the bankruptcy, the company said it “intends to use the Chapter 11 process to engage in further discussions with their landlords and other creditors to successfully restructure their debts to best position the Company for long-term success in the current fitness industry environment.”
According to its website, NYSC has adopted a range of precautions at the locations that have reopened this month. It’s requiring that all members and staff undergo temperature checks and health screenings before entering the gym and wear masks and social distance while inside. The clubs have also adopted more thorough cleaning regimens and eliminated some features such as group fitness classes, showers and saunas.
Still, public health experts have said it’s less risky to exercise outside or at home.