MANHATTAN — It's crunch time for David Barton Gym.
The now-defunct fitness club is being sued by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for siphoning thousands of dollars from customers in prepaid services despite knowing it was in dire financial straits and failing to provide refunds after abruptly shuttering in December of last year.
The gym known for its nightclub-like atmosphere closed all four of its New York City locations abruptly in December, leaving more than 5,000 members out in the cold with no warning.
Many of those customers had forked over wads of cash in advance for services they never received, and still have not been refunded after the sudden shuttering, alleges the lawsuit filed Feb. 14 in the New York State Supreme Court.
“As alleged in our complaint, David Barton Gyms acted irresponsibly and left their members without any recourse to recover lost payments, causing some to lose thousands of dollars,” said Schneiderman in a statement.
“Health clubs must own up to their responsibilities to their members. They cannot be open one day and closed the next without proper notice to their membership, and must provide refunds for services not provided.”
Customers paid hundreds of dollars or more for membership and training packages, according to the lawsuit — one customer paid $13,800 in advance and is now out $6,900 in unused services, plus several thousand more dollars for additional services he paid for months prior to the closure, alleges the suit
Some customers have also been unable to retrieve belongings left in the gym after the closures, says the suit.
The lawsuit also alleges the gym broke state laws about how health clubs are supposed to operate.
The gym was required by the Health Club Service Law to have financial safety nets in place to protect its consumers in the event of a sudden closure — in David Barton Gym’s case, the club should have maintained a bond of over $100,000 for this purpose.
The health club also skirted state law by fudging a clause in its contracts meant to protect the customers in case of a sudden closure. The clause should have stated customers could cancel their prepaid memberships if the services were no longer available, instead it said customers could only cancel if they died or became disabled for over six months, the suit charges.
As a result, customers were unable to retroactively cancel their services after the abrupt closures, according to the attorney general’s office.
The lawsuit calls for the club to provide full refunds, though it has not been determined how many consumers are owed money — the attorney general is still looking for a full accounting of those numbers, according to Schneiderman’s office.
A representative for David Barton Gym said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.