The concept of a gym that’s as sexy as a nightclub is a familiar one to most city dwellers. But David Barton really harnessed the idea in 1991, when he opened his first eponymous gym in Chelsea, then New York’s emerging gayborhood.
There was house music from the DJ booth, sexy guys looking in the mirror, and a frisky steam room—pretty much everything a gay New Yorker would want on a night out. The fact that there was state-of-the-art equipment and top trainers was nice, too, of course.
Gymgoers would see nightlife icons like Amanda LePore or Suzanne Bartsch (Barton’s ex) working out at the next machine. You half-expected a velvet rope to get into the locker room.
But all things must come to an end—certainly in New York, anyway—and it looks like David Barton Gyms has ceased operations. Customers coming to the location in Astor Place posted pictures of a sign indicating all locations in New York, Miami, Chicago, Boston and Seattle had “ceased operations due to competitive market conditions.”
Beyond the note, the company has not made any formal announcement or responded to a request for comment.
The most recent Barton outpost, on Sixth Avenue, was also the one that most hearkened back to its gym-as-nightlife ethos: It was previously home to New York’s legendary Limelight.
Originally the Church of the Holy Communion, it’s always kept its cathedral-like design, thanks to being designated a landmark by the city in 1966. Visitors just worshipped bodily perfection instead of the Son of God.
“The space had amazing synergy to the David Barton Gym brand,” Kevin Kavanaugh, president of David Barton Gym, told Curbed. “[The brand] has a nightclub feel to it, so to have our gym in one of the most iconic buildings in New York City that was also previously a nightclub really appealed to us.”
It seems the investment failed to pay off.
David Barton, who left his namesake gym in 2013, has yet to make a statement about DBG closing. He launched a new facility, TMPL, in Hell’s Kitchen this year that carries on his legacy, with disco lighting, gorgeous clientele and a giant pair of red lips holding a pill painted on the wall.
Yanis Marshall has taught classes there, and Barton says the spin room at TMPL, which has screens on all four walls, “like an Imax theater… like a ride at Universal Studios.”
A description like that is almost enough to get us into the gym. Almost.