A new Maryland law went into effect July 1 requiring that health clubs be bonded so that membership fees can be refunded if they close.
More than $1 million was lost last year by area residents after several health clubs shut down without refunding membership fees.
After the White Marsh Nautilus closed in Baltimore County last year, State Sen. Thomas Bromwell (D-Baltimore) introduced the bonding legislation. Previously, clubs did not have to be bonded if they could show "financial responsibility," said H. Clifton Grandy, director of the Prince George's County Consumer Protection Commission.
Only five of the 40 clubs in Maryland that should be bonded actually are, he said. The Prince George's commission will publish a list of the unbonded clubs; nonprofit clubs, such as state schools or the YMCA, do not have to be bonded.
During the last year and a half, at least 10 unbonded spas have closed in Prince George's, Grandy said. He said some new clubs have been selling memberships before they open and then never open.
He said this was the case with the American Health Spa that was scheduled to open in Clinton. Customers lost $14,000 in that incident, he said. Under the new law, owners of unbonded clubs may be fined $300 to $500 or face jail terms.