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When Gyms Take the Brunt

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At eight o’clock p.m. on Monday, March 16th, Governor of Colorado Jared Polis declared a state of public emergency, suspending dine-in services at restaurants, mandating the closure of gyms, theaters, casinos and other large places of gatherings—all for 30 days. 

Polis recognized the pain this decision would cause local businesses, but cited the need for social distancing. He is not the only governor to make that call—16 other states, including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, Alaska, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Michigan, and Oregon, have all implemented similar mandates. 

What’s followed has been the beginnings of a recession and its gruesome trickle-down effect.

Last week, Gym Climber interviewed Fabrizio Zangrilli, owner of Monkey House climbing gym, located in Carbondale, Colorado, about how coronavirus impacted his day to day. 

“We could only survive about two weeks of being shut down,” he said at the time. “We don’t have a lot in reserve and we are a month to month business. And we’re not the only business in the valley that would be impacted in that way.” 

Since then, members have stepped up. “Keep my money,” posted Chris Kalous, a Carbondale resident and creator of the climbing podcast Enormocast, on Instagram.

On Facebook, newly opened G1 Climbing + Fitness, located in Broomfield, Colorado, posted: “We owe literally millions of dollars and have not had the opportunity to build a nest egg to fall back on, nor had the opportunity to build clout with our community in hopes that they might help carry us through a difficult and unprecedented event like this. The owners put up their house, cashed in their retirement fund, and put it all on the line. We have dozens of employees depending on us to pay for food, rent, gas money, etc. … Ultimately though, we want to do what’s best for our children and our community, no matter the personal cost to us.”

Similarly, in Utah, The Front Climb Club is struggling to float the costs of closure. The Front recently spent $13 million dollars to open a new facility, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, which was scheduled to open today, March 20. The Front is an independently owned gym with no investors to fall back on.

“Although we have had success, and we employ about 90 full-time staff, I would very much consider The Front a small business. I am involved in the business every day, 7 days a week,” stated Dustin Buckthal, CEO, on The Front’s site. “The Front is my life’s work and a place many of you consider a home away from home,” he added. “We are all anxious to see it make it through this turmoil and get back up and running as soon as possible.”

The Front Climbing Club is asking the members to not cancel or freeze their memberships for the next two weeks to keep the business going. If however, members do not wish to do so, they can still have their dues credited and their account frozen. With the help of those payments, The Front will continue to pay full-time hourly staff for as long as funds are available.

Even bigger, investor-backed gyms are experiencing the blowback. El Cap owns 16 gyms across five states. The company decided to close all of its locations before the government mandated closures. 

“The well-being of our employees is absolutely El Cap’s top priority,” said Brent Smith, assistant director of instruction at Earth Treks, which is owned by El Cap. “We have offered sick time to anyone who needed it and was concerned they may have been exposed to the virus. We offered to pay for testing for employees who did not have health care but were concerned they had the virus. Before El Cap announced the closure of all of our gyms, we committed to paying our employees during the March 15th-31st closure. The situation continues to change at a rapid pace and while we do not know how long our gyms will be closed, we are continuing to pursue options that will enable us to take care of as many of our people as we can for as long as we can.” Like all other closed gyms, El Cap is closely monitoring the situation with hopes to open as soon as possible.

To best support your local gym, now is the time to purchase that gym punch-pass you’ve been meaning to get. Buy from their online retail store if possible. Reach out to gym employees that may be struggling at this time. We hope everyone will work together to get through this!

Photo by Sabrina Wendl on Unsplash

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