Gyms, fitness centers say it’s ‘devastating’ not to be included in Phase 2


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Several businesses are gearing up to reopen on Friday as North Carolina enters Phase Two of reopening the economy.

When Gov. Roy Cooper outlined his three-phase plan in April, Phase Two originally called for businesses such as bars and gyms to be able to reopen at limited capacity.

Phase Two, as outlined on Wednesday, will allow restaurants, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, pools, child care facilities, and camps to open.

When asked why he made the decision not to include other businesses in Phase Two, Cooper said: “Although our indicators were good, the numbers for positive cases continue to increase. So, we wanted to scale back a little bit.”

At 5 p.m. on Friday, restaurants can reopen for dine-in customers at mostly a 50 percent capacity. The phase includes distancing and cleaning requirements.

Even with social-distancing measures in place, they’ve still been staying busy at the Jersey Mike’s Subs at McNeil Pointe in Raleigh.

“I feel really blessed and lucky that we have been able to be busy,” said general manager Tom Freeman.

Freeman said they’ve focused on online and call-in orders. They’re ready to bring down a few tables and open their patio.

“You can obviously never be too safe, but we’re as safe as we can be,” Freeman said.

Other businesses in their same shopping center along Wake Forest Road haven’t been as fortunate. F45 Training, which is right next door, closed its doors 10 weeks ago. It expected to reopen until Cooper said Wednesday that gyms cannot do so in Phase Two.

“From us, it’s devastating because we know we can provide that safe environment and a very controlled environment,” said F45 co-owner Ben Wright.

State health leaders said gyms can’t reopen yet partly because people won’t wear face masks while working out and will be breathing harder.

“Yes, people breathe heavy, but we can keep a further distance than the businesses opening,” Wright said. “To hear that other businesses that do have physical contact and can’t really adhere to the standards that we can are opening, it’s kind of frustrating.”

Ben and Katie Wright said small gyms like theirs can control how many people are there at a time while incorporating plenty of sanitizing, distancing, and no touching.

They said keeping gyms closed not only impacts employers and employees, but also a big chunk of society.

“It’s put a lot of people out of work and a lot of businesses that are never probably going to come back, so it’s very stressful,” said Ben Wright.

“This was the safe space and happy space that we could check-in and be that happy light for a lot of people, and it’s not there right there now. It’s missing for a large part of the community — not just for F45, but across the Triangle,” added Katie Wright.

A group of gym and fitness center owners online said they plan to file a lawsuit against the state.

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