The Holiday Spa in Rockville may advertise itself as one of the area's premier coed health clubs, but don't expect to find Mr. Goodbody in any of its aerobic dance classes.
Since the club opened in 1983, classes have been reserved for women, much to the displeasure of three male members who have filed complaints with the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission charging the spa with sex discrimination.
"I just think it's a little appalling when they can advertise a facility like that as a coed gym. Men get just as much out of aerobics as women do," said Bruce Pollekoff, one of the members.
A lawyer for the 13,264-member club, the largest in the chain of 25 operating in five states and the District, appeared in Montgomery County Circuit Court yesterday to prevent the commission from holding public hearings on the charges. But Circuit Court Judge DeLawrence Beard turned down the club's request.
The court action clears the way for the first of five scheduled hearings tonight at the Executive Office Building in Rockville.
"I'm disappointed," said lawyer David E. Manoogian, who represents the club. "What else can I say?"
The complaints were filed last August by Pollekoff, Earnest A. Sahaby of Reston, and Ronald F. Busch of Rockville.
All three men, who work as accountants for a Silver Spring accounting firm, allege that the club's management refused to let them join aerobics dance classes, even though their memberships entitle them to use the entire facility.
"I just showed up and was told by the instructor I couldn't take it," according to Sahaby, who said he paid $1,900 for a lifetime membership.
According to court records, the men were offered full refunds on their memberships, but all three turned the refund down.
Manoogian said the aerobics dance program was designed to take into account a female's strength, aerobic capacity and endurance and would not benefit men who did the exercises.
Few male members have expressed interest in dance classes, he said, while most women prefer all-female classes. As a result, it would not be profitable for the club to develop a coed class, he said.
"We think the integrity and the quality of the program are at issue here," said the lawyer.
In a preliminary ruling on the complaints last December, Human Relations Commission Executive Director Allan P. Dean concluded that the spa's policy constituted a "prima facie" case of sex discrimination.
Dean called the spa's arguments "reminiscent of the civil rights movement when owners of restaurants . . . refused to admit people of certain races or creeds for fear of offending and losing other customers."