Ottawa Athletic Club offers to honour Soma gym memberships

An Ottawa fitness club has offered to honour the memberships of people left in the lurch when a high-end downtown gym closed abruptly on Friday.
Members and workers at upscale gym expressed shock that gym had closed overnight. 1:53

An Ottawa fitness club has offered to honour the memberships of people left in the lurch when a high-end downtown gym closed abruptly Friday.

The Ottawa Athletic Club said Saturday it would honour the remainder of the contracts people had with the Soma Health and Fitness.

OAC general manager Marc Patterson said people who bring in their Soma memberships will have their full contract honoured and won't have to sign on for any more months with OAC.

Patterson said it was an easy decision for the gym.

"Why not? There are so many gyms that open and close that it gives the industry a poor reputation. It gives a bad vibe for the industry in general and people are afraid to commit. We've been in business 37 years and our renewal rate is extremely high," he said.

Distance could be a factor for former Soma members, however, since many gym members often chose a location near where they live or work. The OAC is at 2525 Lancaster Rd., about a 15-minute drive from where Soma was located at 700 Sussex Dr.

Abrupt closure Friday morning

The offer comes after Soma workers and members arrived Friday morning at the gym and discovered the space was closed and equipment and furniture had been removed.

On the club's Facebook page, Soma employees urged members to try to get their money back. The entire page has since been deleted.

On Saturday, at least two new Facebook pages were created to advise people who had worked at or were members of the club.

Business as usual Thursday, members say

Soma had been open Thursday night and was still selling memberships. CBC Ottawa spoke to one man who said he had purchased his annual membership that night at a cost of $1,150, plus taxes.

Another member, Scott Willis, was at the gym Thursday and said everything appeared to be business as usual.

"I feel bad for the guy who was running it, but leaving town in the middle of the night is not the best way to do anything," said Willis.

Many customers said they were scrambling to call their banks or credit card companies Friday, trying to find out if there was any way they could get some of their money back.

Some members also said they had personal belongings — gym bags, running shoes — inside the locked gym.

Staff said they didn't have advance warning and said since many of them get paid monthly, they were not sure yet whether they're going to see their cheques for January.

Soma's owners have not responded to requests for comment.