Attorneys for Barbara Ellen Enterprises Inc. said yesterday they will ask a bankruptcy court to approve an agreement that will allow thousands of the closed health spas' customers to transfer their memberships to other health facilities in the Washington area.

If the courts accept the proposal, the former Barbara Ellen customers would have to surrender any claims for losses they may have incurred when the chain of 10 spas closed last month, said lawyer Stanley J. Samorajczyk.

Two local health facilities, Fitness World and Nu Contours, have agreed to honor unexpired, paid Barbara Ellen memberships on a first come, first served basis, Samorajczyk said.

"We want to protect the reputation of the industry," said Susan Eagle, a representative of Nu Contours. "When things like this happen people say, 'Why should we buy long-term memberships--you may not even be there next year.' "

Fitness World operates health clubs in Rockville and Fairfax County and Nu Contours operates spas in Marlow Heights and Alexandria. Officials of the companies said they may not be able to accept immediately all of the paid customers the Barbara Ellen chain had when it closed. Samorajczyk said yesterday that the chain had up to 14,900 customers and they would have to file individual claims if the courts reject the proposal.

Barbara Ellen Enterprises Inc., which had been operating health spas in the Washington metropolitan area for the past 14 years, filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 Jan. 24. A hearing on the proposed settlement is scheduled for March 11 in federal bankruptcy court in Alexandria.