Cruz Fitness on East Main Street in Lincolnton closed Thursday morning, with padlocks on the doors and signs in the windows alerting customers of the gym to cancel their memberships.
“I apologize for any inconvenience,” read a note from owner Salvador Cruz.
The signs, which said the business was “forced closed,” also directed members to call the state Attorney General’s Office to formally file any complaints regarding consumer protection.
“I am heartbroken because I have worked so hard,” Cruz told the Times-News Thursday afternoon.
Cruz said he had received a letter a couple of weeks ago stating that he was three months behind on his $7,500-per-month rent. Since then, he has received several threats of closure, with the last one coming on Monday.
However, Cruz said the rent has been paid and that the problem is the result of an internal feud involving the property owner, the property manager and the billing agency through which he pays for the rent and equipment. He additionally said the partners have been in negotiations for a few weeks.
He thought he’d have until the end of the month for it all to be worked out. However, when one of his employees showed up early Thursday morning, padlocks were on the doors. Cruz was immediately alerted. He noted the padlocks must have been put in place sometime after 11 p.m. Wednesday and before 5 a.m. Thursday.
That employee, along with three others, is now, like Cruz, without a job.
Cruz maintains he is “not the culprit,” but rather a victim caught in the middle of a disagreement.
Cruz Fitness had roughly 800 or 900 members paying monthly dues averaging between $20 and $30.
“I’m on my members’ side,” Cruz said, adding that he’s been trying to process as many cancellations as possible and that he doesn’t want anyone to continue being drafted after the closure or to think he’s pocketing the money.
So far, 200 memberships have been terminated, he said. Additionally, Cruz said the owners of Rock Fitness in Lincolnton have told him that they will offer him 50 percent of the dues paid for 12 months by former members of Cruz Fitness who are referred to their gym.
Cruz, who has been a trainer and manager in the past, took over ownership of the gym in January. It was previously a ZX Fitness and a Peak Fitness.
He said he has been in contact with his attorney regarding the situation.