METHUEN — The coronavirus continues taking a toll on area businesses, with Boston Sports Clubs, which owns the Latitude chain of gyms, being the latest to shut its doors Sept. 30, laying off hundreds of employees and leaving thousands of members searching for a new place to work out.
The Latitude clubs in Bradford, Peabody, Methuen and Salisbury have all closed in the last couple of days. The parent company of BSC, Town Sports International, also closed clubs in Lynnfield, Lexington, Medford, Westborough and Providence.
The websites for the Peabody and Methuen clubs carry a note saying the clubs are closed “temporarily.” The websites for the Salisbury and Bradford clubs have been taken down.
“This club is temporarily closed,” said the note on the Methuen club’s website. “No members have been billed for access this month. Please check our website and look for an email to your account we have on file for an update.”
Nobody from either the corporate offices or the local clubs returned voicemails or emails.
The closures are more evidence of the severe impact COVID-19 has had on health clubs, which experts say have been disproportionately affected by the economic shutdown caused by the disease.
Town Sports International filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring on Sept. 14, but corporate officials said at the time that members would see no changes. Meanwhile, 24-Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym have also filed for bankruptcy. Gold’s has closed its corporate-owned locations although the franchises, including one in Tewksbury, remain open, according to the manager there.
Town Sports International runs 185 gyms across the country including 30 in Massachusetts. Latitude clubs were sold to Boston Sports Club in the spring of 2019.
In a Sept. 30 article on the website Clubindustry.com, Town Sports International was “working on a deal for the purchase of the company” with a private equity firm.
In a statement posted on the Town Sports website in mid-September, the company said it would use the Chapter 11 process to “engage in further discussions with landlords and other creditors to successfully restructure debts to best position the company for long-term success in the current fitness industry environment.”
A spokesperson for the industry trade group International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, or IHRSA, said the virus has “devastated” the health and fitness industry.
“Gyms/clubs were among the first businesses to close, among the last to open, and even when open, capacity restrictions limit much-needed revenues,” said Meredith Poppler, vice president of communications at IHRSA. “There were 40,000-50,000 health and fitness clubs in the U.S., serving over 73 million consumers last year. The industry employed 3 million part-time and full-time employees.”
She said that as of Sept. 1, the industry, as a whole, had lost $13.9 billion in revenue. She added that “U.S. clubs in total were losing $700 million per week during the height of the shutdown.”
Even though some clubs have opened with capacity reduced to 25-50%, clubs “still have 100% of expenses.”
“Multiple national and regional fitness chains have filed for bankruptcy,” she added, noting that “almost 3,000 clubs have already permanently closed. Without financial relief from Congress, we estimate that at least 25% of clubs could close by the end of 2020 — which would cause massive layoffs.”
She noted that the Chapter 11 declaration of Boston Sports Clubs parent company and “subsequent closures are devastating for their employees and the millions of people who had been benefiting—mind and body—from the fitness services they provided.”