Members forced to leave gym in attempted eviction Columbia Spa Lady owes landlord $11,000 in rent

January 30, 1996|By Dawn Fallik | Dawn Fallik,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Financial problems at Spa Lady's Columbia facility surfaced yesterday after a two-hour eviction put customers and Stairmasters in the parking lot.

The spa's landlord tried to evict it because of $11,000 in back rent, but movers had to put all the equipment back in place after learning that the spa's management company, KasMas Management in Columbia, had filed for bankruptcy last week, halting any such legal actions against it.

About 25 women were exercising when a sheriff's deputy entered the facility to evict them from the spa in Columbia's Owen Brown village.

"He was nice and let us finish our class. But when we went outside, he was standing there with some lady and about four moving men. And they started taking all of the equipment out of the club," said Vicki Hauck, a member of the club since May.

Exercise machines, weights and magazine racks littered the sidewalks outside the club. Some members walked off with equipment, including aerobic steps and weights, Ms. Hauck said.

"I think they just thought it was all over and the club would be closed," she said.

MGK Enterprises and KasMas Management -- companies that own facilities in Glen Burnie, Columbia, Towson and Greenbelt -- filed Thursday for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore, said Lt. Glenn Hyson of the Howard County Sheriff's Department.

All legal proceedings, such as evictions, are stopped when bankruptcy documents are filed, he said.

Jim Fecca, the vice president in charge of operations for KasMas Management in Towson and KasMas Management in Columbia, said the companies want to reorganize and pay off their debts.

"We're looking to keep the business running and pay off the people we owe money to," Mr. Fecca said.

He added that Spa Lady at 7130 Minstrel Way notified the landlord, Realty Investment, of the filing last week and was surprised that the eviction had continued. He declined to comment about any late rent payments.

Officials at Realty Investment of Silver Spring could not be reached for comment.

The Spa Lady chain, which was created in 1979 as a women-only exercise club, has a history of financial problems. At least three dozen club owners have had to close or sell their operations over the years, including the Spa Lady in Towson, which closed last week.

There have been numerous complaints from members of the Columbia facility.

During the past three years, several complaints about the Howard County club have been filed with the Office of Consumer Affairs concerning payment, child-care facilities and men working at the club. Many of the disputes have been resolved, and the Consumer Affairs Office would not comment on pending complaints.

Ms. Hauck said she was not surprised by the temporary eviction, adding that the club has been showing signs of wear and tear.

"There are times when we don't even have paper towels or toilet paper," she said.

Mr. Fecca said operational problems occur "from time to time" at any health club, but that he was unaware of specific problems with equipment or services. He said he hoped the temporary closing would not deter women from returning to the club and said he does not foresee problems because of bankruptcy proceedings.

Hearings will begin in 30 to 90 days to determine whether the filings are legitimate and if eviction proceedings can continue, Lieutenant Hyson said.

Ms. Hauck said that when her membership expires in May 1997, she won't be back.

"I've had it. People keep signing up and paying their money, but I don't see them putting any money back into the club."

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