NEWBURYPORT — Local fitness club owners suffering financially from the COVID-19 shutdown are pleading with Gov. Charlie Baker to allow them to hold classes outside.
As announced by Baker on Monday, health clubs and gyms are part of the third phase of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, making them some of the last businesses to be able to reopen.
Fearing for the future of her business, Meghan Meghan Kinsey, owner of Motivate barre studio at 9 Prince Place, wrote a letter this week to Baker and Lt. Gov. Karen Polito, asking that they be allowed to conduct classes in outdoor areas with no shared equipment. The letter was co-signed by several other local fitness studio owners.
In the letter, Kinsey said while her business was able to “pivot quickly” to virtual classes once the pandemic hit, it is “hanging on by a thread” since Baker’s reopening plan was announced, causing an “overwhelming number” of her studio’s members to leave.
“We are not gyms in the typical sense,” Kinsey said in the letter. “We are smaller and can provide our services during scheduled small group sessions on green space, parking lots, and anywhere we can safely socially distance. And unlike hair salons, we won’t be physically touching at all.”
The letter was also signed by Julie Bokat and Jeanne Carter of Fuel Training Studio on Graf Road, Danny Vadala of Crossfit Full Potential on Perkins Way, Lisa Happ of Engage Your Core on Parker Street, and Braden Monaco of Crossfit Amesbury.
Kinsey said she has received support from some city officials and councilors, including Ward 1 Councilor Sharif Zeid, who she said drafted a proposed ordinance that would allow the city’s fitness clubs to “rent” city parks free of charge to hold outdoor classes.
Zeid could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Kinsey said if her business were allowed to conduct outdoor classes, she would simply ask participants to follow guidelines from the city and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and would not test people for coronavirus or require anyone to wear masks. She also would require participants to bring their own yoga mats and supplies.
“Barre is very passive as opposed to a cardio class. You’re not in that anaerobic zone, so easily you put your yoga mat six feet apart and if people want the mask on, then they can put it on, or they can pull themselves further away from each other,” Kinsey said, adding that holding outdoor classes would help Motivate, and other local fitness clubs, stay open despite the pandemic.
“A lot of my members have really been jonesing to be together again,” Kinsey said. “And I do think it would have to be that way to keep the numbers I need in a class to remain profitable.”