Bliss Flow Yoga, LLC, which announced the immediate closing of its west side studio last Thursday, signed an agreement on June 27 to vacate its premises by the end of July, according to Dane County court filings. The signing of the agreement canceled the studio's eviction hearing, which was previously scheduled for July 2.
A week later, Bliss Flow owner Jennifer Braun filed for bankruptcy. Braun has not responded to the Cap Times’ requests for comment.
Court records indicate that Welton Enterprises, Inc., the development company that owns the property at 3525-3527 University Avenue, initiated the eviction case on June 13 of this year. Kurt Welton, president and treasurer of Welton Enterprises, said Bliss Flow asked to end its five-year lease early to move to a new location.
“They said they wanted to downsize,” Welton said. “We said, ‘Well, we can try to negotiate something,’ but they just quit paying rent.”
As of June 10, court records indicate that Bliss Flow had not paid rent for May or June and owed $9,881.80.
Braun filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last Wednesday. In the filings, Braun estimated that her debts, primarily business debts, total $910,388.90, while she estimated her assets at $611,015.03. Filings say she intends to surrender her home in McFarland.
As the Cap Times reported on Friday, former students and instructors of the studio said they were surprised and confused by the studio’s sudden closure.
Patricia Green-Sotos taught at the studio on what she later learned was its last day of operation. She said the instructors received an email from Braun late last Wednesday night, explaining that Braun would announce the studio’s closing to students the following morning.
“The bank had decided to pull their support and no longer support her loan, and they were possessing the business and everything she had to back the business,” Green-Sotos said. Green-Sotos is still waiting to get access to the building to get her belongings, and she said Braun told her the bank would set up a time.
Green-Sotos believes that the closing took Braun by surprise as well. She said Braun had recently asked her to plan additional session for instructors “as a special treat (for) the students.”
“This was not in her control, and I think that's what really needs to be gotten out,” Green-Sotos said. Students and instructors have been angry, she said, because of the sparse information from the studio.
Some wondered if construction on North Blackhawk Avenue that blocked the main access to the studio’s parking lot may have reduced class attendance. Student Julie Aulik told the Cap Times by email that drivers could get to the studio through a neighboring parking lot and that she was still able to enter through Blackhawk Avenue, but “it definitely could be a barrier to people.”
“They built a different temporary driveway that worked,” Aulik said, “but, for example, my husband couldn't find it and came home recently instead of going to class.”
Green-Sotos is unsure if the bank will pay her for teaching services in the beginning of July. Online, several people complained that they had purchased class passes or annual memberships and had not yet been told whether they will get a refund.
Michelle Reinen, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said on Monday that her office had received about seven complaints about the studio’s closing. Consumers who want to determine if they might be eligible for “any relief or refund” can file complaints in writing with the agency, along with a copy of the receipt or contract and proof of payment.
“It is important, if consumers are at a loss, to file that complaint,” Reinen said. The Bureau of Consumer Protection will then look at the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the business’ closing and the terms and conditions the consumers agreed to. It is too soon for her to say what the Bureau will be able to do.
Consumers who paid within the last 60 days could contact their credit card companies to dispute the charges. When a business files for bankruptcy, consumers can file a claim as a creditor for the unfulfilled value of the contract, Reinen said. However, in responses on her bankruptcy filing form, Braun estimated that funds would not "be available available to distribute to unsecured creditors."
Green-Sotos called the situation “tragic” for all involved. "It's a lose-lose-lose. The students lose their classes, the teachers probably will lose their pay, and Jennifer has lost her collateral that she put up for the business. So no one wins in this,” Green-Sotos said.