SoulCycle customers are venting their outrage on social media as the chic spinning studio quietly lays off top instructors with little to no severance — and one spinning guru claims she’s collected more than $20,000 in donations.
Katie Lutkowski, who helped open the Skokie, Ill. studio in December 2016 and was promoted to senior instructor in November, said she launched a fundraising campaign for about 19 laid-off workers after learning of the layoffs last week.
The 30-year-old trainer posted her Venmo account on her Instagram page and “it blew up” she said, noting she has racked up more than $20,000 in less than a week. “I didn’t expect it to reach this many people.”
SoulCycle instructors are “rightfully angry and sad,” Lutkowski told The Post. “Some of them are around my age and were recently promoted and now they’re losing everything.”
The chain’s star spinning instructors – many of whom moved to markets such as suburban Chicago and Tampa, Fla. to help launch its first studios in those areas – were shocked to learn on a Zoom call last week that their jobs were getting cut amid downsizing that’s closing a quarter of its stores.
On Thursday, SoulCycle told Lutkowski she would get one week’s severance after initially telling her she would get none.
The skimpy payout made Lutkowski feel “like they don’t care about how much time, effort, heart, and grit I put into this company,” she told The Post. “Like they don’t see, have never seen, and will never see the huge community I have built and the lives I’ve impacted.”
“Comes off like I was a new hire,” Lutkowski added. “Just sucks.”
Owned by The Related Companies’ Equinox luxury gym, SoulCycle revealed last week it is closing 20 of its 82 studios and laying off 75 of its 1,350 employees. The company closed its studios for months when the pandemic hit and never regained its momentum when they reopened.
Some instructors and customers said they believe the number of layoffs is higher as each studio has about 10 employees — and that the company is targeting its most expensive, senior instructors with the cuts.
“These layoffs are interesting because they’re not cutting the newest (thus cheapest) instructors, they’re going for ones that cost the company more money,” wrote one Reddit user. “They also seem to be closing a lot of suburb studios.”
In New York, however, another Reddit user said, “We have instructors with 10+ years of history getting laid off, and they were definitely filling classes pre-Covid. I know because I took their classes in jam packed studios.”
Nicholas Wagner was among those Big Apple instructors.
“Thank you for all the amazing humans who have trusted me and taken my class,” the 12-year SoulCycle veteran posted on Instagram.
In the latest cuts, SoulCycle is pulling up stakes in Tampa entirely according to a Reddit user who lamented that the veteran instructors there, Sasha Kahnamelli and Candy Jones, “relocated TO Tampa in the first place for Soul,” adding, “There are no ‘neighboring studios’ for Sasha and Candy to go to.”
“What the hell is wrong with Soul! This leaves such a sour taste in my mouth,” one Reddit user posted last week. “Wtf — no more soul in soul cycle,” wrote another.
Jenny Casto, an instructor with the company for three years, relocated from a Denver studio to reopen a Chicago location last year after it had been closed during the pandemic.
“I felt like there was a breach of trust. It didn’t feel like the SoulCycle that I fell in love with,” Casto told The Post, adding that she was not given a severance package.
“i’m beyond upset about jenny…,” one Reddit user wrote last week of Casto. “She sooo did not deserve this.”
Another instructor who has worked for the company for eight years, but did not want to be identified, said he was not offered a severance package, just a payout for his remaining personal days, he told The Post.
“The majority of people are devastated, instructors and riders alike,” the instructor said.
The chain will continue to pay its laid off employees’ health benefits through September, a spokesperson for the company said in a statement adding that the company is offering severance packages to some of its employees.
“SoulCycle’s severance package is based on various factors and many impacted employees are eligible to receive severance,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Lutkowski blames the closures on SoulCycle’s rapid expansion. “We saw the expansion that seemed too much too soon,” she said. “They were trying to get it everywhere and we were spread too thin. They wanted to make quick money and have quantity over quality.”
In 2018, the company yanked a planned IPO that would have raised $100 million and helped the company to pay off its debt. At the time it had 38 studios in seven cities and was looking to open 250 studios, according to the IPO documents.
When news of the closures broke last week, SoulCycle said “As riders continue to return to in-studio classes, there have been many shifts as a result of the pandemic,” a spokesperson told the Post in a statement. “Some of these shifts have been based on geography and therefore we are naturally reevaluating our portfolio of studios to assess whether there is an opportunity to right-size in certain markets. This will allow us to continue to provide riders with the SoulCycle experience they know and love.”
Some customers blame SoulCycle’s woes on a decline in the quality of instructors while others say they learned to exercise in the comfort of their homes and don’t see the need to fork out big bucks for classes anymore.
“I can’t justify paying $34 a class when I do not like/connect with any of the instructors in my market (DC). We’ve lost all of the good ones who used to consistently sell out classes and create the Soul experience,” said a Reddit user last week.
Some of the studios that are closing have struggled to reach their pre-pandemic levels, Lutkowski said, including her own.
“We were supposed to hit numbers that weren’t possible,” she told The Post. “But we were coming back, just not as fast as the company would have liked.”