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Planet Fitness claims empty space at The Banks

'Judgement free' gym takes former Toby Keith site
Posted at 11:08 AM, Jan 28, 2019

Toby Keith couldn’t make it work. Neither could legendary Cincinnati bar operator Jimmy Bernstein.

Now, a “judgment free” gym will try to bring regular customers to the northern edge of The Banks riverfront development.

Planet Fitness will open a downtown Cincinnati location on Second Street near Main. It’s a space that formerly housed Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill and the piano-bar concept, Howl at the Moon.

The space has been empty since last January, when Howl at the Moon closed after 16 months. Toby Keith lasted three and a half years before its 2015 closure.

The company that leases space for The Banks said it was part of a deliberate strategy to shift away from entertainment retail on Second Street.

“We felt the energy at The Banks is certainly concentrated along the Freedom Way corridor,” said Tracy Schwegmann, marketing director for Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate. “That’s where the bulk of the entertainment retail is currently. So, we went out and entertained alternatives.”

Planet Fitness will take most of the 16,000-square-foot space vacated by Howl at the Moon. Smoothie King will occupy about 10 percent of the former nightclub location. Both are expected to open in May. Planet Fitness will be open 24 hours daily on week days and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“It was our New Year’s goal to provide the downtown Cincinnati marketplace with a first-class, 24-hour fitness facility,” said Mike Hamilton, Chief Operating Officer of Planet Fitness Midwest, in a press release. “We are thrilled that our Planet Fitness and Smoothie King operations at The Banks put fitness and wellness within reach of the Downtown worker population, area residents, and Banks visitors.”

Hamilton said Planet Fitness Midwest signed a 10-year lease and expects to pay 40 to 50 percent higher rent than most of its 30 other locations, many of them in suburban retail centers with lots of free parking. Parking could be another added expense. Hamilton said he'll try to negotiate an arrangement for those who want want to park on-site at The Banks.

“All the details aren’t worked out but we are confident that something will be worked out as far as parking,” he said.

Hamilton expects the new location will draw up to 3,000 “check ins” a week, with 75 percent of its users walking to the gym before or after work.

Schwegmann said the streetcar will and The Banks parking garage will overcome the lack of free parking, since many downtown residents and office workers already pay for parking near the new gym.

“You’ve got a robust Downtown employment base and a rapidly growing Downtown residential base,” she said. “It’s testament to stability and vitality of Downtown.”