Gym revolt? Owner says fitness reopening will happen regardless of provincial orders

CALGARY — It’s only been one day since the province announced health restrictions will be partially lifted on Feb. 8, but the news has already caused an uproar in one Alberta community. 

After lobbying for months for a full relaunch, many gyms say they aren’t happy with the phased reopening plan announced Friday.

They’ll be permitted to do appointment-only, one-on-one training, but that leaves behind the majority of treadmill-using, dumbbell-lifting gym users. 

According to some owners, the lack of a concrete plan around an entire restart could lead to a revolt. 

“After yesterday, you will see a vast number of gyms defy the provincial government and reopen,” Anytime Fitness owner Moe Hamdon told CTV News. “I was very disappointed with the news.”

Hamdon is one of many. 

One fitness operator estimated on Thursday up to 200 centres are ready to defy health orders in the coming weeks. 

“I almost get a sense that there will be more now,” Hamdon said. “There were quite a few people upset yesterday. We are a big part of the solution and we’re tired of being treated as part of the problem.”

While Hamdon says it’s unlikely Anytime Fitness will break the rules, he understands why some of his peers are considering it. 

Rule breakers in other industries have seen fines that some say are too small. 

One Edmonton gym owner says the penalties passed down to defying diners this week showed “the risk is worth the reward.”

At Lagree YYC, owner Kimberly Rothenberg says the financial aspect of the shutdown has been devastating to her studio. 

“Even with all the subsidies — which are helpful and wonderful and we’re grateful for them — there’s still more money going out than coming in,” Rothenberg said. “Personally, my husband and I believe in following the law … but I certainly understand where (the defiance) is coming from.”

The phased reopening plan, which starts in nine days, depends mainly on hospital admissions.

The announcement of Step 1 of the four-step plan was triggered Thursday, the province said, when hospitalizations fell below 600. 

As of Friday, there were 594 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the province, including 110 in intensive care.

ICU physician Darren Markland says the decreasing numbers can be misleading.  

“We’re already stressed,” Markland said. “The hospital is full. It’s currently less full than it was, but we have, to quote hockey, been working at 110 per cent.”

“This is not the time to open things up until we get a trajectory of these new viruses.”

Some fitness centres say they’re eyeing Feb. 8 — the same day bars and restaurants can reopen — as the day they’ll also throw open their doors.

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