Photo by Corinne Nicholson
COVINGTON -- Covington Athletic Club and Fitness Center on Alcovy Road has closed its doors after 22 years.
The club closed Friday, just two days after the decision to shut down was made by owner Phil Johnson.
"We've had the same problem that so many people have had with this economic condition. It's just awful," Johnson said. "We've lost about 300 members during the last 24 months. It's been very difficult."
Johnson said a letter of notification will be sent to the club's 600 members. Some of those members pay monthly while others have paid their dues well in advance. Johnson said he doesn't yet know if they will get a refund.
"The answer is that I really don't have a clear picture yet. We didn't decide until (Wednesday) that we were going to close the club," he said.
Johnson said he hopes to sell the workout equipment and use the money to refund memberships.
"I'm from here. I know all these people. If there's any way in the world we can sell all the equipment and pay the memberships, we're certainly going to do it," he said.
According to the club's Web site, dues for individuals are $45 per month for a limited membership and $49.99 for a deluxe membership, plus a $100 initiation fee. There are also more expensive couples and family memberships.
Johnson said the business has been declining since 2004, and the real turn came when younger members stopped coming.
The club opened in 1987. Johnson purchased it eight years ago and did a total renovation.
He said he is most concerned about his 50 employees and the gap in services to the community that will result from the closing. For example, the club had the only heated pool in town, which offered classes for arthritis sufferers, he said.
"It's just been a dreadful thing. I almost cry when I talk about it," he said.
Johnson said he is in discussions with three potential new owners who would buy the building and continue to use it as a fitness center.
Amenities at the club include an indoor pool; an outdoor walking/jogging path; sauna and steam rooms; tennis, racquetball and basketball courts; tanning; weight and cardio equipment and various fitness classes.
Ricky Graham of Covington has been a member there for about a year. Graham stopped by Friday to find the building locked.
"The people here have been real friendly ... and the atmosphere here encourages people to work out and lose weight," Graham said.
Graham said he'd noticed the maintenance of machines had fallen by the wayside, and he figured it was due to financial trouble.
"It would be nice if it would open back up. The gym is bigger than the (Covington Family YMCA) and they have an indoor pool. The money is about the same (as the YMCA), but they have an indoor pool here that you can swim in year round," he said.
Johnson said there are no immediate plans to close his other business, Flaunt Salon, Spa and Boutique.
"Flaunt is doing OK. It's been real funny. I can't explain this, but somehow Flaunt is doing better than the club. Maybe it is that women are more interested in looking after their hair and hair color," than working out, he said.