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Juice bar closure may not go smoothly

March 25, 2006|By Lauren Vane

The owner of a popular juice bar inside a Newport Beach gym was served with a 30-day eviction notice this week despite the impassioned activism of hundreds of members who have lobbied for him to stay.

Jin-Sung Kim has owned and operated Surf City Squeeze, a juice and snack bar, inside rented space at the 24 Hour Fitness in Newport Center for more than five years. After the lease was up in October, managers informed him that club's remodeling plans left no room for the juice bar. He has to be out by April 25.

But Kim's loyal customers aren't taking the news lightly. Since word got out that Kim and his protein smoothies were soon going to be a thing of the past, members have been meeting and brainstorming ideas to reverse the decision and get Kim to stay.

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"We're moving forward, and I think we're gaining ground," said gym member Craig Hepner.

Hepner circulated a petition around the gym and gathered more than 300 signatures from club members who want Kim to stay. Some members have said they'll pull their membership unless Kim and his juice bar are allowed to stay.

"This is just too important not to get involved," Hepner said.

The 24 Hour Fitness management said that "despite exhaustive efforts to find an alternative solution," remodel plans for the Newport Center gym don't leave room for Kim's juice bar.

"As we continue our upgrade and renovation plans, we regret losing the juice bar and Mr. Kim but sincerely wish him luck in his other business ventures and hope he continues to touch the lives of his customers," said 24 Hour Fitness spokeswoman Patty Guinto, in an e-mailed statement Friday.

The company offered Kim a rented spot at a Rancho Santa Margarita gym for his juice bar, but it's too far from where he lives and besides, his customers are in Newport Beach, Kim said.

Members have said Kim is like family; he's memorized members' favorite smoothies or sandwiches and has the order ready and waiting after they finish working out.

"We're not giving up at all," Hepner said.

Kim's customers are planning to hold a rally at the Newport Center 24 Hour Fitness from 10 a.m. to noon April 1, in hopes of a last-minute change of heart from the corporate office.

Unless the 24 Hour Fitness managers change their mind, Kim will be out of a job by the end of April, something that will take a hit on his entire family, Kim said. His wife is fighting cancer and can't work. Kim is the sole provider for his wife and 16-year-old son.

"I have no idea right now," Kim said of his employment plans.

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