Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 25
Muscled outFinancially troubled Santa Maria gym evicted after landlord says owners failed to pay months worth of rent
BY JEREMY THOMAS
A small crowd gathered at the locked doors of the Santa Maria Athletic Club on the morning of Aug. 23. Several gym members—decked out in fitness gear and ready for their daily workouts—shrugged their shoulders; others shook their heads.
“I’ve still got about $50 worth of stuff left in my locker,” one man explained. “How am I going to get to it?”
Almost overnight, the gym they frequented so often had shuttered for good. The news came as a complete surprise; members who’d prepaid wondered if they’d get their money back, while those with payments deducted automatically each month worried about the impact on their bank accounts.
A notice of eviction taped to the facility’s front window by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department’s civil bureau provided few clues. However, court documents reveal the gym’s owners—listed as Michael Tate, Ron Tate, and John J. Michael—legally owe their L.A. based-landlord Mideb Nominees $107,000 for rent they failed to pay from November 2011 to April 30 of this year, plus interest. The monthly rent amount is listed at $33,500.
A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge signed a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff in May, and the court issued a writ of execution—a court order enforcing the judgment—on July 10. Despite being served with a summons and a complaint in April, court records show the gym’s ownership continued occupying the building.
Sandwiched between Costco and Trader Joe’s at the intersection of Bradley and Stowell roads, the Santa Maria Athletic Club boasted about 3,000 members on its rolls. Formerly Gold’s Gym, the 35,000-square-foot facility opened in 2006, and has struggled with ownership issues in the past.
The gym’s original owner, John Mahli, who also operated Gold’s Gym in San Luis Obispo, suffered from financial problems and eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. Amid rumors of impending closure, Tate’s group—based in Washington—purchased Mahli’s two gyms and renamed them.
The new ownership group added exercise equipment, a mixed-martial arts training area with punching bags, and tanning and massage beds. Tate also incorporated HCG Gold Wellness Center, a weight and nutrition clinic he founded, into the two gyms. In January, the owners attempted to partner with national chain World Gym, but for unknown reasons, the deal never fully materialized in Santa Maria.
Then on Aug. 22, Sheriff’s deputies entered the club during business hours, telling everyone present, including gym members, to gather their belongings and leave immediately. Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Mark Williams said the action became necessary after the club’s owners ignored a previous notice.
“They failed to comply with eviction process and vacate the premises even though they were given a week longer than we are legally required to do so,” Williams told the Sun via e-mail. “Deputies came to the club several hours earlier than planned and were forced to ask people to leave.”
Williams added he couldn’t divulge any further information regarding the ongoing civil case.
The forced eviction occurred the same day checks were due to arrive, according to boxing trainer Carlos Ruiz, who taught classes at the gym. With nobody there to sign for them, Ruiz said, employees left without getting paid.
“The bad thing is a lot of people didn’t get their [final] paychecks,” Ruiz said. “But I guess that’s what happens when a business goes under.”
The Central Coast Boxing Club, which Ruiz heads, also used the club as a home base, storing their boxing ring and gear inside. As of press time, Ruiz said, he still had not been allowed inside to retrieve the club’s belongings.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our equipment back,” Ruiz said.
The closure also came out of the blue for Don DeNoyer, who taught fitness classes and trained mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters out of the club. Nearly a week after the doors were locked, DeNoyer said he was still fighting to retrieve $30,000 of his own equipment from the building.
The posted eviction notice states that the landlord is responsible for storing property for 15 days from the date of issuance. If storage costs aren’t paid, and the tenant doesn’t take possession of the property after that time, the landlord has the right to auction it off.
By Aug. 27, another sign had appeared alongside the notice, this one pressed onto the front window with decal lettering:
“If you lost $, call Ron Tate,” it read, listing Tate’s personal phone number. By the following afternoon, the sign had been removed.
Co-owner Tate, who is also listed as CEO of Kaleidoscope Media Systems, did not respond to repeated requests from the Sun for comment. Landlord Mideb Nominees and property manager John Duder also did not return multiple phone calls. The club’s former general manager, Goreal Hudson, said he left the area in June for a new job in Washington, and hadn’t kept up on what transpired.
“The gym is not going to open back up again,” he said. “That’s pretty much all I can say at this point.”
DeNoyer, who said he recently signed deals to bring wheelchair MMA, wheelchair boxing, and classes for the disabled to the gym, is currently looking for other locations for his fighters, many of whom were in the midst of preparing for upcoming bouts.
“We were just getting ready to blow up with all our stuff and it just put a little bit of a damper on things,” DeNoyer said. “It’s just really bad timing.”
While club members, boxers, and fighters would eventually find other gyms to join, DeNoyer said, he sympathized most with the gym’s former workers.
“It’s just sad the way things happened,” he said. “There are a lot of employees that were affected financially. I’m hoping that everybody can recover and there’s a nice ending to all this.”
Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.