HARDBODIES IN THE Montrose and River Oaks area are in shock today as an institution of a gym abruptly announced it was closing.
Members of 20-year-old Fit Athletic Club, perched above the Marshall’s store in the strip center at the corner of Waugh and West Gray, were given just a few hours’ notice of the closure with a sign on the door. Employees were tipped off yesterday.
Jack Tompkins, who co-founded the gym in 2003 with a nightlife impresario named Scott Lutwak who later moved to San Diego to expand the brand to California, says he and his New York-based corporate landlords could not reach an agreement on a new lease and rent price. Tompkins said that, despite thinking until the last minute that a deal could be struck, the landlord’s representative ultimately said there would be no new contract.
“His job is to extract as much as he can,” says Tompkins. “My job is to not let him extract so much that I go bankrupt.” Tompkins declined to talk numbers, but the rumor mill — which has been very active both among members at the scene squeezing in one last workout, and on social media — puts the rent in the expiring lease at many tens of thousands per month.
Tompkins says he was disappointed that, in the end, his 20 years as a good tenant wasn’t sufficient to convince the landlord to reup. He speculated that there must be plan for the future use of the space the owners hadn’t divulged. Again, rumors swirled — that the space might be converted to offices. One member said they’d probably build a new high-rise apartment building in the parking lot.
Efforts to locate the landlord for comment were unsuccessful.
Fit has about 20 full-time employees, all of whom must now scramble to find new jobs, as nearly 2,000 members consider which gym to move to next.
Fit has evolved over the years from a scene-y setup popular with the gay community and a hip crowd of young professionals to a bit more of a laidback neighborhood gym — albeit with a pounding rock soundtrack and no shortage of pretty people.
Tompkins says he will begin looking at new spaces in the area with an eye toward reopening elsewhere.
A oversized punching bag greets members in the lobby of Fit.
Rows of cardio machines have a view of Downtown in the distance.