Frustrated Powerhouse Gym members demand refunds after long-awaited opening

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POSTED: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 11:55pm

UPDATED: Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 1:46pm

Members of the controversial Powerhouse Gym in Baton Rouge are finally able to go inside the gym they've been waiting for. But many of them are unhappy about what they see when they get there.

Owner Ronnie Olah opened the gym December 26th, nearly a year after its originally-planned launch date.

But instead of the palatial, 70,000 square foot facility they were promised, members say there is only one room with a handful of machines inside.

"When I went in, I said, 'we can't even use this, there's no power,'" Shay Malvo said. "There were no power cords to anything. I mean, how's a treadmill gonna run, an elliptical machine, with no power?"

The sight did nothing to ease Malvo's worries about the center. She said she began seeking a cancelation of her membership last spring, but was never able to reach anyone from the company.

"You called, nothing," she said. "Their little office that was on the side street, closed up."

There are lots of signs around the building, some of them pointing to a side office that sits empty. But there were no signs Thursday on the side door that leads to the temporary workout room. Olah said that he wanted to get something opened for all the members who have patiently waited, before slowly filling the entire building.

"You know, the members didn't sign up for a 2,000 or 3,000 square foot facility with a few pieces of equipment," former partner and contractor Scott Bernard said. "They signed up for the ultimate Powerhouse mega-gym."

Bernard says he was witness to many of the problems that have kept the gym from launching properly. He claims that bank statements and inventory purchase orders were faked, debts were never repaid, and he lost a substantial amount of money.

He also alleges that an argument with Olah over ownership of the club's assets turned violent.

"About three months or so into everything," Bernard said, "we got a letter from an attorney representing the former investor before myself. And the claim was that all the assets of Fitness Concepts (Olah's previous gym) belonged to him, and they showed receipts and things where he had actually paid for all the equipment, for the decorating, for the whole nine yards.

"As I was leaving the building, then I was assaulted by three members of the construction crew, and put in the hospital for seven days. They said that he put them up to this."

Olah declined to comment about many of the club's past issues, citing pending litigation.

When he opened the doors to Powerhouse, there was no formal notice to his members. They say they found out when payments for membership dues were taken from their bank accounts the next day.

Many were upset and demanded their money back. Olah agreed to work with them, but some of the members say that led to another false promise.

"He took my name, number, and he said you'll get a refund of your first month," Malvo said of her cancelation a week ago. "And also, we'll go ahead an cancel your membership for the rest of the year, and it'll be 48 hours, you'll get an email confirmation. And I haven't received anything."

But Olah said that if he is the con artist he is often portrayed to be, he is the dumbest con artist ever, because he is still in Baton Rouge, trying to open a business he said he is passionate about.

Malvo wants anyone looking at joining a gym to heed the lesson she learned.

"Make sure that it's completely open," she said, "everything is up and running, there are people in place. You know, people working, people training, classes, everything."

Powerhouse Gym has a different phone number than the number listed on banners hanging from the side of the building. The new number is (225) 275-9668.

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Olah told my mom she would recieve a refund in a week . She keeps getting the run around from his so called billing department. They don't have the money to refund her. She cancelled within the ten days.

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