SAN DIEGO – Starting Wednesday, gyms in San Diego County are among a host of industries getting the green light to move operations back indoors with modifications.
Under the rules of state’s red tier, gyms and fitness centers are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to 10% of its occupancy. Although still a long way from a full reopening, some local gyms say it’s a small step forward that they and their clients have been waiting on for a long time.
“We, in the fitness industry, believe we are part of the solution, not part of the problem,” said Scott Lutwak, CEO of Fit Athletic Club. “We believe that people need to stay healthy during the pandemic — both mentally and physically — so we were really disappointed that we were closed 100%.”
In the state’s most restrictive tier, where the county remained for months, gyms only were allowed to open outdoors. Some facilities adjusted to that mandate while others went to battle with state and local public health officials to expand the scope of what’s allowed to be open.
Lutwak previously was involved in two lawsuits within the past year in a bid to return.
“We were unsuccessful in all of our attempts in getting reopen in spite of the fact that strip clubs were open, Home Depot was open,” Lutwak said. “You can get your nails done or a massage, but you still weren’t able to come to the gym in any capacity.”
Fit’s Carmel Mountain Ranch site was the only of its five locations in the county that even had space to operate outdoors, Lutwak said. But this Thursday, all locations will welcome clients back indoors at 10% capacity with extensive sanitation protocols that now have become standard.
Last March, Fit let go of nearly 350 employees amid the outbreak of the pandemic. Now, Lutwak says he’s proud to be able to bring about half of the staff back within the next week.
He’s also hopeful the county continues advancing through California’s tiered reopening system, which would allow the number of employees to grow and steadily increase the amount of people able to run and lift inside the facility. In the orange tier, capacity for gyms jumps to 25% indoors and indoor pools would be permitted to reopen, for example.
“The new normal is going to be better than the past,” he said. “Everyone’s approach toward fitness and wellness and their need to stay well. It’s more imperative now than ever.”