‘Perfect storm’ as home-grown fitness chain Movati suddenly shuts London gyms

A fitness chain founded in London is suddenly closing its two London locations, leaving more than 100 people without jobs and thousands without a gym membership.

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A fitness chain founded in London is suddenly closing its two London locations, leaving more than 100 people without jobs and thousands without a gym membership.

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Movati Athletic will close its north and south London clubs on Wonderland Road effective Wednesday at 6 pm, the company announced Tuesday morning.

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The news took members and staff by surprise — with one employee telling The London Free Press workers were told Tuesday at 10 am about the Wednesday closing.

The rest of Movati’s clubs across Canada are not affected, the company said in a news release and through announcements on its website.

A sign posted on a door at the Movati Athletic club on Wonderland Road South in London on Tuesday, Aug.  30, 2022, advises the club and the company's other club in London on Wonderland Road North will close early on Tuesday, Aug.  30. The London-based chain announced both London clubs will close permanently on Wednesday, Aug.  31. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)
A sign posted on a door at the Movati Athletic club on Wonderland Road South in London on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, advises the club and the company’s other club in London on Wonderland Road North will close early on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The London-based chain announced both London clubs will close permanently on Wednesday, Aug. 31. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

“Unique circumstances, isolated to London” are forcing the closings in the city, Movati Athletic said in a news release.

The pandemic shutdowns put strains on the finances and operations of the London clubs, the news release said.

“With the financial and operational repercussions of these shutdowns bearing on Movati, the economics of the London real estate market were no longer sustainable. Those two unique factors made continuing the clubs’ operations unsustainable,” the release said.

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Members who had paid in advance will be reimbursed outstanding balances, and automatic bank withdrawals for those paying every two weeks will be stopped, the company said in the release.

“It’s a sad day for Movati, our team members and our members,” chief executive Chuck Kelly said in the news release.

“We have been a part of the London community for 25 years. But we were hit by a perfect storm of circumstances that forced us to make this tough decision.”

Kelly was not available for further comment Tuesday, a spokesperson at the head office said.

The sudden closings will affect more than 100 staff and thousands of members, the company said in the news release.

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Movati is “fulfilling its legal obligations to staff affected by the closing,” the company said.

The Athletic Club was founded by Alan Quesnel and David Wu, with the first location in north London.

In 2014, the chain changed its name to Movati Athletic.

Laura Dennis, whose wrestler name is Cherry Bomb, keeps in shape at The Athletic Club in this 2010 file photo.  (Free Press files)
Laura Dennis, whose wrestler name is Cherry Bomb, keeps in shape at The Athletic Club in this 2010 file photo. (Free Press files)

In a 2014 interview, Kelly told The London Free Press that the chain had succeeded by focusing on women and families and people who didn’t traditionally feel comfortable in fitness gyms.

“We wanted to create a place where they could feel welcome,” he said. “Some people want to run a triathlon. Some people just want to play with their grandkids.”

Movati’s soon-to-close London locations are at 755 Wonderland Rd. N., just north of Oxford Street, and in a big-box plaza at 3198 Wonderland Rd. S.

The company says it has 18 clubs across Canada, with more than 100,000 members and almost 2,000 employees.

rrichmond@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/RandyRatLFPress

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