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SALT LAKE CITY — The coronavirus pandemic claimed more Utah jobs this week, as local 24 Hour Fitness employees learned they will be let go by the company along with hundreds of others in 24 Hour locations across the country.
Employees learned of the layoffs in a Wednesday morning conference call. The employees had already been on leave, as Utah's 24 Hour locations had not reopened since being shut down amid the pandemic in March.
24 Hour Fitness has declined to specify the extent of its closures and layoffs, but fitness manager David Merrell, who worked at the gym's Taylorsville location, said the layoffs included every club in Utah.
Utah locations were not included in a list of shuttered gyms released by 24 Hour Fitness; however, the company confirmed its Utah clubs would be closing permanently in a Friday email to local members. Memberships and personal trainings will be transferred to VASA gyms.
24 Hour members in Utah were initially unsure what would happen to the money they had already committed to the clubs. "A lot of them are extremely angry," Merrell said, "because they have money invested. ... The company has made no communication with the members about if they're getting a refund for that."
But in the email, addressed from 24 Hour CEO Tony Ueber, the company announced their memberships would be transferred to VASA Fitness beginning June 17. "VASA will be reaching out to you very soon to guide you on steps to getting started with your gym membership," it says.
In addition to the Taylorsville location, 24 Hour Fitness also had locations in Sugar House, Murray and Sandy.
The company becomes one of many to be rocked by the economic turmoil surrounding the novel coronavirus and the nation's response.
In an email to terminated employees, 24 Hour Fitness said the "uncertainties" of COVID-19 "have forced us to rethink our evolving strategy, club footprint and business needs."
"This was not a decision that was reached lightly and it is with a heavy heart we deliver this message," the email says.
Merrell said the layoffs have made a bad situation worse for hundreds of fitness instructors. "Now these people are going into a market that is already saturated with trainers," he said, "and most of the gyms are not operating at full capacity."
In a statement, 24 Hour Fitness confirmed it is eliminating some clubs and positions.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the 24 Hour Fitness strategy to transform our business. And, the pace by which we have had to make difficult decisions has been accelerated as well," the statement says. "In order to meet the changing needs of our club members, we are re-evaluating staffing needs and the overall company’s club footprint. This includes a focused set of employee reductions to align with current and future needs of the business. The goal is to reposition 24 Hour Fitness to create a sustainable, long-term business for our team members and the millions of club members that we serve."
If you are one of my 24 Hour Fitness students and you see this - myself and many, many more group fitness instructors & trainers were let go today. I won’t be seeing you around any time soon. #24hourfitness— Melanie Bolen - @geekyfit (@geekyfit) June 10, 2020
In the email terminated employees received after the Wednesday conference call, 24 Hour Fitness said it would send employees more information about retrieving their personal belongings from clubs and that "neither active nor former team members will be permitted to retrieve belongings outside of the process we’ll be communicating to you."
It later provided a linked survey for employees to list what they've left at 24 Hour locations.
"I was like, ‘Wow, you guys didn't tell us we wouldn't be able to get back in,'" Merrell said. "’You told us we're going to be let back in when the gyms reopen, so we left.’ I left pictures, I left some cherished items that my husband has given me." He hopes 24 Hour will be able to return them.
As for his own plans, Merrell said he has rented space in Butler Pro Gym in West Valley City and will be taking clients there. Merrell had already experienced a closure when 24 Hour axed its Trolley Corners location, and said he felt mentally prepared for this layoff. "But for a lot of these people, it's a real hard reset for them," he said.
"I feel for the clients that were finally starting to make headway and starting to believe in themselves and starting to have more energy," he continued. "And now where do they go?"
The Wall Street Journal reported that 24 Hour Fitness may be preparing to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy within weeks.