I work at a health club and just like any other health club, we have rules and regulations to make the place fun and safe for everyone to use. In my case, you can take a gym bag onto the floor as long as you keep it by your station. The concern is, like you said, that someone comes along and trips over all your stuff on the floor and ends up sueing the health club. Thats why we have it so you can take a bag onto the floor. We just expect people to use common sense and not roll out some big suitcase onto the floor, lol. There are only a few hard-core trianers at this gym who use the wraps, straps, etc. that you would expect and they don't get in anyones way with their bag. They, more than anybody, understand how a gym works and that everyone has their own space to do what they want. The rest of the people usually just ride the bikes and jog on the treadmills while they watch the tv's ... you know ... the Mr and Mrs Universe's in training, lol.
In the end, it just comes down to the gyms own policy. While I don't agree with the policy of the gym you were using ... if it is their policy then you just have to go with it ... or find a new gym.
Hope your experience doesn't put you off gyms or throw off your routine.