Gym owners anxious over Phase 2 reopening extension

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gym owners are voicing concerns following Governor Cooper's announcement Tuesday to extend Phase 2 restrictions.

"I was definitely sad to start off. Disheartened. And then a little bit frustrated," said Delvin Burton, who owns CycleBar West Cary.

He believes the restrictions on gyms are too general.

"We have the ability to control a lot of factors that make it a little bit more challenging for our big-box peers. That's the really frustrating part is that we're all being lumped together as if we all execute the exact same way," said Burton.

He says online classes have had waning attendance, which is typically enough to cover staff expenses. They are now renting out exercise bikes to members and plan to begin outdoor classes this weekend to expand their revenue streams.

"I probably have about a month and a half until I really have to dip back into my savings again. And that would be concerning at that particular point because I used some of my savings on the front end," said Burton.

Burton had reserve funds saved up at the beginning of the pandemic, and is working through his PPP loan. While he still owes franchise fees, he noted CycleBar has been financially supportive in other ways during the pandemic.

"Did some groups get PPP and did that help? For sure. And that helped for the first two or three months. It doesn't help in months four and five," added Doug Warf, the President of O2 Fitness.

Warf is frustrated about a lack of communication between the Governor's Office and gym owners.

"There has to be another round of relief funding. And I know at the state level, they would point to the federal government But even the state can do things. The state can help with tax breaks," explained Warf.

O2 Fitness has 22 locations, 17 of which are in North Carolina. Warf said they rent space for 20 of their locations.

"Most national landlords will defer some rent so you pay half, and then you pay half again in six months. I think what a lot of us are concerned about is that we're coming up on some of those payments where we're going to owe a month-and-a-half rent," explained Warf.

Warf noted they were able to reopen their five South Carolina locations in mid-May.

"We've had just over 40,000 check-ins at those five locations. Zero issues with the coronavirus. We did have one team member contract it from a friend, but it was caught like our protocol states for it to be. It was handled appropriately. That team member stayed out for 14 days, was asymptomatic, and is back at work and doing great, as is the team and everybody in that club," Warf said.

He added they have received compliance from customers when it comes to wearing masks and social distancing.

"We want to do it as safely as possible. We can't risk a relapse, and I think people do understand that. As gym owners, we understand that we don't want to reclose. We can't risk that. We state these things. We know we need to open safely and stay open safely," Warf said.

He is now partnering with other national gym chain operators to try and engage with the Governor's Office about plans to reopen.
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