Should Gyms Reopen?
President Donald Trump called for the reopening of America’s gyms as part of the federal government’s three-phase plan to reopen the economy.
Like all businesses affected by mandated shutdowns, the fitness industry is reeling from the fallout.
- 24 Hour Fitness is weighing bankruptcy.
- Gold’s Gym is permanently closing 30 corporate-owned locations.
- Town Sports International and LA Fitness are being sued for charging members despite closures.
- Boutique studios, including [solidcore], Y7 Studio, and SoulCycle, have cut pay or furloughed staff.
The question remains: Is it safe to reopen? For their part, Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi and Stephen Ross, founder and chairman of the Related Companies (the parent company of Equinox and SoulCycle) and a now-infamous Trump fundraiser, are in favor. Both Akradi and Ross are on the president’s economic revitalization task force.
But some health experts are lining up in opposition. As Lawrence Gostin, the director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, put it:
“Gyms are like a petri dish.”
Wait and see
Despite inclusion in the federal government’s reopening plan, some notable fitness providers have elected to remain closed as states loosen shutdown restrictions.
Equinox executive chairman Harvey Spevak said: the company is excited to reopen, but it’s taking a “wait and see approach” as they continue to evaluate the health crisis.
- Equinox formed a team of medical experts to make a city-by-city reopening plan.
- Upon re-opening, SoulCycle classes will be capped and visitors will have their temperature taken upon arrival.
- Equinox members may be asked to reserve gym time via an app to prevent overcrowding.
Honor Holdings CEO Jamie Weeks said: members and staff “are telling us they’re not ready [to reopen].” For context, Honor Holdings (HH) is the largest Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) franchisee.
- Weeks’ OTF locations closed on March 16.
- Initially, HH set a reopening date of May 18 but continues to monitor the situation.
- If the May date holds, they’ll have gone two months with no revenue from studios.
Meanwhile, in China: Increased concerns about a resurgence of coronavirus forced gyms in Beijing to close again after initially reopening. In the first quarter alone, more than 200 fitness businesses shuttered in Beijing.
For now, it appears as though the decision will ultimately be placed in the hands of individuals, who are free to attend if classes are on, and gym owners, whose staff will be tasked with sanitizing equipment and enforcing social distancing practices.