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An exercise in auctioneering: Uptown Fitness equipment sold to pay taxes

POSTED: April 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Ricky Smith checks one of the pieces of equipment that was put up for auction Tuesday morning at the former Uptown Fitness Center in downtown Gainesville.

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They came in search of the elusive bargain, and some found it Tuesday as Gainesville and the Hall County Tax Commissioners office sold some of the equipment at the former Uptown Fitness on Bradford Street.

Many of the commercial grade exercise machines brought far less than what had been listed as the beginning bid.

Erik Pardue of Gainesville snapped up a treadmill with a computerized monitoring system for $400.

"That was what I came for," Pardue said.

Liz Coates, manager of the Family Life Center at First Baptist Church, purchased an elliptical machine and a stationary bike to add to the center’s collection of exercise equipment.

Coates offered the first bid of $200 on a five-station weight training system that eventually fetched $3,200. Richard Windham, who operates a personal training service in Habersham and Jackson counties, was the winning bidder.

"That system would cost $6,000 easily," Windham said.

He also bought a wall-mounted color TV for $50.

The sale was to continue until the tax lien against the business was satisfied. On Jan. 2, the business failed to open as scheduled, and the building has been closed ever since. The taxes were owed by Keith Allison, who operated Uptown Fitness for a number of years.

A notice on the Uptown Fitness Web site, signed "Uptown Fitness management" and dated Dec. 31, 2007, acknowledged the gym’s official closing.

The letter stated that Uptown Fitness "will be unable to continue to serve the fitness needs of the community." It also stated that members who currently make monthly payments to the gym will not be required to make any additional payments, and membership dues will cease to be automatically deducted from members’ accounts monthly.

However, the letter also stated that members who have paid membership dues in advance and in full would not be provided a refund. Further, the posting stated, "I would ask that you consider that your decision to pay in full provided you with a substantial discount. We have looked very carefully at this group of members, and there is a very small number of people who will experience a true loss."

A copy of a membership agreement contract was attached to the posting, and stated members were not entitled to refunds "in the event the club ceases operation or fails to offer an alternative location."

The club was believed to have around 1,200 members.

Tuesday was also the first opportunity for former members to retrieve items left in lockers at the facility. Several former clients came in search of their belongings.

Doug and Debra Harkrider, who own the building, said they are anxious for the tax matter to be resolved so they can again offer the building for lease. The Harkriders will gain possession of any of the equipment beyond what is needed to satisfy the tax lien. They also owned some exercise equipment in the building that was not included in the sale and were offering it for sale separately on Tuesday.



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