Could you even lift, bro?
New York Sports Clubs and Lucille Roberts both charged illegal dues and prohibited members from canceling during the coronavirus pandemic, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday in suing the gyms’ parent company.
Even as gyms across New York State were ordered closed by the governor to curb the virus’ spread, James’ office said in a news release, the gyms partook "in a variety of illegal and fraudulent practices."
The suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Town Sports International, alleges violations of the state executive law, including fraud, breaking the health club law, and seeks an injunction against charging dues for clubs that haven’t reopened, restitution, penalties and legal costs.
"Under the circumstances, TSI’s Hotel California-style approach to its members — ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave’ — is not only unlawful, it is reprehensible," the 27-page court filing says.
Gyms were allowed to open beginning in August, with restrictions.
According to the Wall Street Journal in June, gym chains’ bottom lines have been hit hard by the pandemic, including 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. and Gold's Gym International Inc. filing for Chapter 11 after losing out on membership dues, and the parent company of the clubs James’ office is suing have warned of potential bankruptcies.
James’ suit hints at the industry’s financial woes — and says Town Sports International even sometimes, in writing, acknowledged cancellations and promised not to bill the member, only to charge the person nevertheless.
"At every turn, TSI has sought to mitigate its precarious financial state at its members’ expense, and has effectively used its members as a source of interest-free financing for TSI’s operations," according to the suit, which estimates James’ office has gotten 1,848 complaints against the chains.
Town Sports International Holdings could not be reached Wednesday for comment. A call to the company was answered by a recording, which stated that memberships at clubs required by law to stay closed would remain frozen without fees, and that cancellation was possible upon letter sent by postal mail.
"We appreciate your patience during this time and look forward to seeing you in the gym soon," the recording said before disconnecting.
The company had promised a freeze and other steps earlier this year to James’ office but fully didn’t follow through, the claim states.