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Toronto YogaBe shuts down without notice; members, mats left stranded

Last Updated Feb 11, 2016 at 7:21 am EDT

File image of YogaBe studio before it closed. Photo via Yelp.ca

YogaBe, conveniently nestled in the PATH system at 200 Wellington Street, has closed its doors without notice or refund to its members due to the cost of “prime real estate.”

The studio closed on Sunday afternoon, just under two years after opening. Laura Baron, the founder and owner of YogaBe, told Breakfast Television in Aug. 2014, that the studio’s goal was to make yoga more accessible to people in the downtown core.

Baron said she poured her ‘”heart, soul, everything” she had into the endeavour and she tried to keep it going as long as possible. But the economy ultimately closed the doors.

“We kept things open as long as we possibly could, at considerable personal expense, but it’s just not there,” said Baron. “From what I can see, we’re in essentially another recession, and there’s a huge disconnect going on between the price of occupying prime real estate in an era of on-line shopping and remote workers,” Baron said.

Cara Gibbons, who practiced yoga at YogaBe occasionally, first heard of the closure in an email on Sunday afternoon.

“We were all extremely surprised by the closure,” she said.

Gibbons said following the closure, members’ yoga mats were left outside the locked store on Monday morning.

“My colleagues saw a free-for-all on Monday morning in front of the studio, with people just grabbing mats randomly,” said Gibbons. “They were tossed on the floor like garbage.”

Gibbons said by all appearances, the studio was busy.

“Aside from the single email, there was no communication,” Gibbons said.

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“When I received the email on Sunday afternoon, their website was still live with no indication of the closure except that the schedule was blank and if you tried to buy classes there was a message saying only YogaBe is closed.”

Theresa Dalrymple was one of the founding members of YogaBe and said she attended classes quite often but the studio hasn’t been her that it has closed.

Dalrymple stored her mat at the store, but could not find it on Monday morning when she went searching for it.

She first bought her membership in Aug. 2014 and it was to last till Aug. 2016.

She has since been advised to speak with Visa, the credit card she used to pay for her membership to YogaBe.

“Visa was helpful and told me that as soon as YogaBe declares bankruptcy that I should advise them and they will dispute the charges,” said Dalrymple.

Gibbons said they tried to find out if YogaBe was bankrupt, in order to file a claim, but did not hear anything back.

Baron said there has not been a formal assignment into bankruptcy.

“I understand that companies go under, but the manner in which this was handled was horrible,” said Gibbons. “There’s been no information provided and there is no way to communicate with them. The studio itself is cleared out and locked.

“There’s not even a sign posted,” Gibbons said.

A person named Vlad D. commented on Yelp.ca that they bought a membership from Dec. 2015 until March 2016 and was forced to call his credit card company to dispute the membership which totaled over $1,200.

“I faxed as evidence screenshots of my purchase history, classes cancellations and Laura’s farewell e-mail,” Vlad wrote on Yelp. “I hope that everyone affected will be able to get their money back.”

All YogaBe social media accounts were shut down on Sunday and the website has posted this message:

YOGABEclosed

Many members and people who used the studio took to Twitter to express their frustration with the closure:

A couple Toronto yoga studios came to the rescue and offered passes to those left stranded by YogaBe.

Baron said that she is completely gutted and is currently working out arrangements with other studios to help the previous members find a new yoga studio that will honour “in some ways” their existing arrangements.

“Most messages I’ve received are wholly sympathetic to the challenges faced by so many businesses these days, especially small retail businesses in the downtown core,” said Barron.

She said that she has seen a significant number of retail outlets close their door in the last year – six businesses in MetroCentre alone – and foot traffic has decreased.

“With all the vacancy, what’s there to lure the foot traffic for which we pay such a premium?” she added.

“I was at a class on Friday, Feb. 5th and all seemed normal,” said Dalrymple. “I am very disappointed in their treatment of loyal customers.”