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Gym Owners Across NJ Beg State to Allow Them to Reopen; On the Verge of Losing Everything

(The Center Square) – New Jersey fitness center owners say their shuttered doors not only affect their bottom line but the health of their clients.

The Senate Fiscal Recovery Strategists heard from a group of gym owners Thursday about the effects of Gov. Phil Murphy’s refusal to reopen gyms. Murphy has allowed one-on-one sessions and some yoga and martial arts but cites the danger of transmitting COVID-19 indoors as his reason for keeping gyms closed.

Murphy has not given a date for when the gyms will open. Gym owners, who have been closed since businesses were shut down in March, say it is affecting them financially.

“If a date is not provided extremely soon, it’s financially impossible to operate in this manner,” said Kevin Johnson, a former NFL player and owner of Team 85 Fitness and Wellness in Bordentown. “It’s no longer possible for my company and others in the industry to pay real estate taxes, sales taxes, unemployment taxes to the state of New Jersey, while the state of New Jersey gainfully employs their employees, while the private sector is being penalized, and we are expected to continue to pay state taxes.”

Murphy has been presented a set of health and safety guidelines from the New Jersey Fitness Alliance based on best practices from other states where gyms have reopened, said Kevin McHugh, chief operation office with The Atlantic Club. Those guidelines address what is one of the biggest obstacles for the fitness industry.

“Our biggest hurdle is getting members back into our clubs because they feel safe and they feel we’ve done everything we can possibly do to make health clubs really what they are,” McHugh said.

More than 107 million New Jersey residents are members of fitness clubs. Many of them are continuously asking for the clubs to reopen so they can resume their fitness routines.

“Where are they going?” asked Leslie Adelman Banks, managing partner with Fitness and Wellness. “They cannot go outside. We are the continuum of care, we are where the people come when they are done with their physical therapy, when they’re done with their cardiac rehab or MS program.”

Former New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson, who sits on the board of directors for national fitness chain Planet Fitness, said residents need to get back to their gyms.

“We know COVID is a major, major problem, but so are chronic diseases and other things like stress and sleep,” Benson said. “And we know that healthy exercise really allows people to cope with those problems quite well.”

Gym owners are in a dire situation and are desperate, said Andrew Alfano, CEO of Retro Fitness. They are willing to consider options to open, but one-on-one sessions allowed by the governor are not “economically feasible,” particularly for larger gyms.

“To be perfectly frank, it’s almost insulting,” Alfano said.

Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick said he is calling on Gov. Murphy to hear from all small business sectors.

“Small business owners who continue to suffer during this pandemic are entitled to a hearing before the Governor to argue how they can open safely,” Bramnick said in a social media post. “They should be permitted to present experts and witnesses to support their position.”

published here by the Gloucestercitynews.net 

with permission of The Center Square