The Gym, located at 66 Grove Street, had its business operations suspended by the State of Connecticut Thursday, Oct. 11.
Ridgefield Tax Collector Jane Berendsen-Hill said the business had not paid its taxes for the third quarter, missing its July installment that would have covered the months of July, August, and September.
The business pays yearly taxes of $1,725.84 — $431.36 of which is past due from the July missed payment, according to Berendsen-Hill.
She added that the business’ payment for the final quarter of the year had also not been made.
“The next quarter installment is due this month and has not been paid,” Berendsen-Hill told The Press.
Berendsen-Hill said she could not comment on whether or not the business had missed payments to employees — something that had been been speculated on the Ridgefield CT Facebook page late last week.
Several attempts to reach The Gym’s management team and owner Seth Hirschel went un-responded as of Monday, Oct. 15.
One former employee told The Press that the business had issues with bounced checks both this past summer and this fall — most recently in October 2018.
“The speculation is the owners have done this before with different gyms,” the former employee said.
“They were not very involved owners,” the anonymous source said. “I only met them once in Ridgefield.”
Another former employee said on Facebook that Hirschel not paid employees for six-plus weeks.
“We are promised timely and sufficient payment, only to have our checks bounce from insufficient funds,” she wrote on Oct. 11. “After repeated requests to Mr. Hirschel to pay us on time, he has responded with false promises and weak excuses. This is impacting over 20+ fitness instructors, general service managers, and college students … Mr. Hirschel has taken over $200,000 upfront payments from 200 members for fitness training classes … we have been forced to close the doors due to continued insufficient funds in the payroll account associated with The Gym.
According to files at the town clerk’s office, the Grove Street property was purchased by Lisa Eng Properties LLC of New York, N.Y., for $2,450,000 on Jan. 29, 2018. It was previously owned by 66 Grove Ridgefield LLC located at 485 West Putnam Avenue in Greenwich.
On the property transfer, Lisa Eng Properties LLC is listed as being located at 10 Esquire Road, Suite No. 13 in New York City — the same address as the Howard Mann Law Firm.
A representative at Howard Mann Law Firm told The Press Monday, Oct. 15, that Lisa Eng Properties LLC has never been located at the property.
The Greenwich address traces back to a commercial office building. A representative with National Resources told The Press that several companies currently occupy the space. She could not confirm or disconfirm if one of them was 66 Grove Ridgefield LLC.
‘In the dark’
A notice to members of The Gym in Ridgefield went out Wednesday, Oct. 10, saying there would be no group classes that day. The following day — Thursday, Oct. 11 — another note was sent to customers saying the business was closed.
There has been no communication to customers since that email message was sent out.
Customers on social media began wondering what would happen to the money they had spent for annual memberships and training packages.
“I don’t want to get billed for another month and I feel that with the owner’s track record, he will continue to bill his members for an empty facility,” said one member on Facebook. “We have all been left in the dark here.”
The Gym’s Southbury location, which had posted on Facebook last week that it would be closed for business due to a tax issue, did not respond to several voicemails left over the weekend. On Monday, Oct. 15, the business’ phone rang without an automated system for voice messages.
“[T]he gym will be closed until further notice due to a tax issue that we were unable to resolve on Friday morning,” the Southbury-based business posted on its Facebook page Friday, Oct. 12.
The post was signed by owner Hirschel.
“We anticipate resolving this matter on Monday and will update you then,” he wrote. “We are terribly sorry for the inconvenience and we will keep you updated through email and social media.”
Ridgefield customers said on the Ridgefield CT Facebook page they had tried to reach Hirschel but had been unsuccessful.
“This is frustrating to say the least,” one member said on Facebook. “He also needs to refund us for the month of October.”
The Gym — branded “the gym” — in Ridgefield was opened by Hirschel in July 2013. It was formerly the Ridgefield Fitness Club, owned and operated by Sue and Jim Johnstone.