California Club in Former Women-Only Club Space Closes

SANTA ROSA, CA -- Body Zone Fitness, which took over the space formerly occupied by Body Central, closed its doors last week, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Body Central was the women-only club that closed a few months after a judge ruled in a lawsuit that it must admit men as members.

A sign inside Body Zone last week advised customers that the business lost its lease and that all memberships were transferred to another fitness club a block away, according to the Press Democrat. A manager blamed the economy for the club’s demise and added that membership, which was about two-thirds female, had fallen 25 percent, according to the newspaper.

In 2003, a Santa Rosa man, Phillip Kottle, filed a complaint that he was denied a membership to Body Central because of his gender. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) said that Body Central violated California’s civil rights law barring businesses from discriminating based on sex, race or religion.

The Body Central owner at the time, Shannon Hartnett, signed a settlement agreement with the DFEH in October 2004 that required her to open the club to men. She agreed to provide at least one hour of anti-discrimination training to the club's staff and agreed to get rid of all advertising that portrayed Body Central as a women-only club. Hartnett also agreed to pay Kottle $500, and the club was required to provide separate shower and locker facilities for men within two years.

The DFEH sued Body Central in December 2005, alleging that Hartnett violated the agreement. The lawsuit said the club was still advertising itself as women only in the newspaper and had signs on display at the club reading “Fitness for Women” and “Making Women Stronger.”

In June 2006, a Sonoma County judge ruled in favor of the DFEH, saying that Body Central must open its doors to men and stop advertising itself as women only. The judge also ordered the club to provide showers and lockers for men. Later that year, the same Sonoma County judge said that Body Central had not provided permanent showers, so the club was ordered to pay fines of $50 a day, beginning Dec. 31, 2006. The judge also ordered the club to refund Kottle’s membership dues. Body Central closed on Jan. 8, 2007.

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