More than five months after it was gutted by fire, the Bally Total Fitness on Forsyth Boulevard in University City -- better known as the Clayton Bally's, as it's just a hop, skip and a jump from that fair municipality -- appears to be finally ready to reopen tomorrow, November 3.
Employees had previously promised patrons that the fitness club was reopening on Labor Day. Or September 20. Or early October. Or -- as Bally employees told Daily RFT last week
-- November 1.
Those days have come and gone. And the University City Community Development Department smacked down the November 1 promises to Daily RFT
last week. The fitness club had yet to even schedule the necessary inspections, a staffer told us last Tuesday.
Sure enough, November 1 came and went. Still no opening.
Not that you should get your hopes up or anything, but tomorrow appears to be a different story. U. City tells us that its inspectors are on site this afternoon, and Bally's staffers assure us tomorrow at 5 a.m., the doors will open.
That might not be enough to soothe its angry patrons. Several got in touch with Daily RFT
to express outrage at the fitness chain. They say they never received any communication from the company. And they've continued to get charged monthly fees -- apparently, Bally feels that because it has a location in Maryland Heights, it has every right to keep charging U. City members, even during the Forsyth Boulevard closure.
The company's corporate public relations staff has not returned repeated calls seeking comment, including one today.
The lack of communication -- and, more recently, the false promises when they called the club to inquire about reopening -- seem to gall Bally members the most.
Cory Hoehn of Kirkwood tells Daily RFT
that after he canceled his membership a few years ago, Bally wooed him with letters offering a "Come Back" special.
"I feel that if Bally's can afford to send out multiple mailings to former members asking them to come back and work out at their facility, I don't see why a letter of explanation couldn't have been mailed out to current and paid members," he tells us in an email.
Hoehn also notes that Bally did communicate a bit with the Clayton Bally members after they took to posting on Facebook -- but not in a particularly helpful way.
"Even then, it wasn't any named representative of Bally's but instead someone posting as the manager of the Bally's fan page," he writes. "I can imagine why a name wouldn't want to be divulged to a mass of disappointed members. However, it was similar to receiving a clown-masked message of inspiration and encouragement to keep you from going to their competitors."
Another member tells us that Bally refused to refund his monthly payments for July and September (strangely, he says, they never charged him in August). So he decided to dispute the charges with his credit-card company. "They said I had every right to proceed for 'charges for services not provided,'" he writes.
Will the anger dissipate with the club finally, maybe, reopening? Will the club, in fact, actually reopen tomorrow?