Unexpected gym closure exercises everyone
Last updated 3/10/2016 at Noon
The closure of the Mukilteo Athletic Club last week left members looking for refunds, employees wondering if they’d see their final paychecks, and the property owner and gym owner pointing fingers at each other.
The surprise closure of the club, formerly Gold’s Gym, at 12138 Mukilteo Speedway, followed several years of struggle. It boasted a wide range of equipment, classes and amenities, but it competed in a limited market that includes several smaller gyms as well as the Mukilteo Family YMCA and Rosehill Community Center.
However, members reported the club increasingly was dirty, broken equipment wasn’t repaired or replaced, and it often opened late while members were stuck in the parking lot cooling their heels.
Dorothy Robinson of Robinson Properties & Investments in Everett, the company that owns the building, said she leased the gym, including all the equipment, to Anil Bhambi beginning in the spring of 2015.
He stopped paying rent, she said, and Robinson Properties initiated eviction proceedings.
Bhambi said he stopped paying rent because Robinson had turned over about $50,000 in receivables membership fees that he began to aggressively collect before finding out many of those members actually didn’t owe any money.
Consequently, Bhambi said, he had to start refunding money, incurring losses in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. He said he went to Robinson seeking to work out an arrangement, without success.
“So I stopped paying rent, to collect the losses I had,” he said.
Both sides claimed the other was spreading rumors, damaging reputations.
Bhambi said Robinson shut down the gym; Robinson said he just stopped showing up.
Bhambi said Robinson posted his parents’ address on the door at the gym for people who wanted to contact him; Robinson said Bhambi gave that address as his business address.
“I feel really bad about that,” Dorothy Robinson said. “How was I to know?”
Robinson said Bhambi argued to keep the gym open for a few more weeks to give people an opportunity to find another gym, but she said, “Up until the day he closed he was still taking memberships.”
Bhambi said he urged Robinson not to close the operation down abruptly because many members had prepaid, “so I said it’s not a good idea to just shut down.”
Robinson posted a notice on the gym door notifying members that some would be able to transfer their membership to another gym in Everett.
Maria Breitenstein, an aerobics instructor who taught classes at MAC, said rumors of the club’s closure had begun to spread during its final weeks.
The grapevine said rent had skyrocketed; that membership had slowly been dwindling; that employees were getting their last paychecks. (Bhambi said Tuesday that all employees have been paid.)
The club’s abrupt closure has former members fuming. Some, who paid a year in advance, are filing complaints with the state Attorney General’s office. Others reported that automatic withdrawals from their bank accounts continued even after MAC closed down.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office is asking that club members who pre-paid for long-term memberships contact them.
Breitenstein, calling the closure “a sad story,” said the contract and regular employees felt “kind of like a family.” She also said among the rumors was one that the club might reopen under new ownership.
If so, it will have a lot of fence-mending to do. “If it does open back up, a lot of people will avoid it,” Breitenstein said.
Robinson, however, said she is selling the gym equipment. “I’m past retirement age,” she said. “I need to have a little fun.