‘Safety first’: Fitness studio owners lament being closed while they say others in the industry are open despite COVID-19 restrictions
Despite adapting all they can, Move! Fitness Studio in Nevada City remains closed to clients.
According to owners Marilyn Rohrbacher and Wendy Riley, they’ve had to shut down twice now for over six months due to COVID-19 restrictions, losing about 75% of their income in that time.
“Our clients have been just so incredibly supportive of us along the way, and it’s just heart wrenching that we’re not able to service them,” Riley said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but it’s tough maintaining the rent on an empty building.”
This week Nevada County’s test positivity rate fell low enough to meet criteria for the orange tier at 3.5%, though case rates, at 11.3 new cases per day, kept the county within the purple tier.
Before reaching the orange tier, it would first have to move into the red tier by having a case rate of seven or fewer new cases per day and a positivity rate under 8% for two consecutive weeks.
But according to Rohrbacher, even if the county moved into the red tier, allowing restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to open indoors with limited capacity, it now would not likely be enough to sustain them.
They tried it when the county was in the red tier last year, creating outdoor group activities and limiting their indoor space to two trainers and two clients at one time.
“Our demographic is the Baby Boomer generation so we’re talking 60, 70, 80 year olds. When the weather got colder, it’s just not something that they are happy to do. It’s not too comfortable for them,” Rohrbacher said.
The pair said now they are holding morning walking sessions and keeping in contact with their clients over the phone, but other than that there isn’t much they can do but wait for the county’s case and positivity rates to drop low enough.
“We look at the website every day hoping it’s gonna go from purple to red,” Riley said.
“It’s frustrating and it’s confusing when we are very aware that we are one of the few gyms that are actually closed.”
Both owners said they know of other gyms and studios that have remained open, despite only being allowed outdoor activities within the purple tier and are hoping others will choose to follow the rules.
“We don’t want to be the gym cops,” Rohrbacher said. “We just hope and pray everybody does the right thing but from what we understand that’s not happening, so it just leaves us very frustrated. But we don’t want to, we don’t want to have to enforce for other people.”
The county this week announced a new site — http://www.mynevadacounty.com/servicerequest — where residents can report service requests and concerns to the county, including complaints against businesses not complying with COVID-19 regulations. It replaces the Ask Nevada County app, which will no longer be serviced.
According to Acting Community Development Agency Director Mali LaGoe, every complaint is followed up on with at least a letter to the business and is shared with the appropriate jurisdiction if it’s within one of the city limits.
There were more than 20 COVID-19-related complaints in each of the first three weeks of January, with 38 in the highest week, compared to just 38 total so far in the month of February.
More than 80 complaints have come within Grass Valley, just over 40 were in Truckee, and less than 20 each have been with Nevada City and the unincorporated county.
At the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, some business owners and employees said they would continue operating regardless of restrictions, including Ken Paige of the Nevada County Restaurant Coalition.
“You can point to me as probably the instigator of all the issues you’re facing, and I had no idea that all of this would happen,” Paige said. “But we’ve rallied. We have 300 to 400 people now, we have a war room of people.”
Paige said he’s organizing to convince other business owners to join him in reopening against COVID-19 mandates, and feels discriminated against because larger businesses have remained open.
“It’s going to take a bulldozer to take us down, and we are going to continue to do what’s necessary, safely, responsibly,” he said.
“We’re going to reopen all of our businesses, all of our cities, we’re not going to close. We just want you to join us in being like-minded, stable, sharp leaders.”
Riley and Rohrbacher said they have gotten some help from their landlord and the Nevada County Relief Fund and despite their struggles, believe they are doing what’s best for them, their clients and the county.
“We just chose to do what we feel is the right thing and that is putting safety first, the wellness of our community first, so that we can get through this and all open safely.”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
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