Urgent talks begin in gym stoush

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Club Physical gym members seen here protesting outside one of the Jolt Fitness branches. Photo / Supplied
Club Physical gym members seen here protesting outside one of the Jolt Fitness branches. Photo / Supplied

Three Auckland gyms which were told to shut up shop last week have now been given a week's reprieve by the High Court, with urgent talks kicking off today.

Justice Winkelmann issued an interim injunction against Jolt Fitness last Wednesday, requiring the owners to shut down its Westgate, Three Kings and Botany health clubs.

Her decision came after Stuart Holder, who owned three Club Physical gym franchises, suddenly rebranded the clubs as "Jolt Fitness" without warning on February 8.

Club Physical owner Paul Richards applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop Jolt Fitness from operating, claiming Holder had breached franchise agreements which had years to run on them.

Holder, who said he was "incredibly surprised and disappointed" by Justice Winkelmann's decision to grant the injunction, refused to close down and then lodged an urgent appeal for a stay of the order to close the three clubs.

Justice Winkelmann has since granted the stay until next Monday, March 18 to allow Richards and Holder to reach an "amicable resolution of the dispute", Jolt said in a statement.

"Jolt Fitness advises that its urgent application to the High Court for a stay of the Order to close has been successful.

"This means that the Westgate, Three Kings and Botany Downs clubs have received legal permission to remain open.

"Both parties are committed to progressing discussions and to coming to an agreement that will ensure the clubs members are not disadvantaged in any way."

Richards confirmed this morning that the Jolt Fitness owners were "now playing ball and willing to talk".

"Ultimately, Club Physical wants those clubs back and it's looking positive that that will happen."

Richards said he wanted to get the Club Physical classes and "ethos" back in place in those branches.

He did not see a possibility of Holder continuing to run the gyms though, he said.

Holder's controversial rebrand of the three gyms last month came completely out of the blue for members, staff and Richards.

Staff at the Three Kings, Botany and Westgate gyms were fitted with new uniforms, new classes were put in place, and instructors arriving up to take their regular classes were turned away.

Many members of those gyms are upset the move came without warning and that classes they signed up for no longer exist. Others have voiced their support for the change.

A heated debate has ensued on both the Club Physical and Jolt Fitness Facebook pages.

A future date for both parties to bring their full cases before the court and for a permanent decision to be made has not been set.

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