Gyms contemplate suing state to reopen their businesses

Alliance of gym owners consider a class action suit as phase four begins

Tom Puckett
July 01, 2020 - 4:00 am


Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Although the western region of New York State is in the fourth and final stage of reopening from a coronavirus shutdown, we're still unable to lace up the sneakers and head to a gym.  Gyms have yet to be given clearance to reopen as the state studies ways to keep gym patrons safe in these closed environments.

About 3,500 gyms and fitness centers are considering a class action lawsuit against Governor Cuomo calling for him to allow them to reopen.

"As a whole, we don't feel we've given our due process and our chance to open and show we can do it safely just like everyone else can," says Erica Dix of Anytime Fitness in Jamestown. Dix says it was discouraging to be pulled from Cuomo's phase four list, which had been declared the last phase of reopening after COVID19.

Dix says she has checked out filters that could trap COVID19, something Cuomo has called a requirement for reopening malls. "We haven't looked at the cost of it, but it's my understanding it's a filter just like any HVAC unit, it's a little more defined, for lack of a better word," says Dix. "It's a simple filter, and if that's what it will take, every gym across the state will do it. But we're all on pause because today he could say something different, it's not HVAC that's the reason, it's XYZ. So why should we spend additional money most of us don't have coming in to buy something that may not be an issue."

Dix says she and the others are a couple of weeks away from filing suit. "It's not about money, it's not about bashing somebody, it's about getting the chance to reopen and show we can do this safely and give the people their gyms back," notes Dix. Dix adds members wipe down equipment with disinfecting wipes after each use and the gym is cleaned each day, something done for five years.

The decision to keep gyms closed kept Ashley Draper of Jada Blitz Fitness off guard. "We had been told we were in phase three, then phase four, then the news we would be removed from the last phase with no word on when we could reopen or any data as to why we cannot reopen," says Draper. 

Draper says she bought a Clorox Total 360 machine to help spray down the entire facility, with plans to close multiple times a day to wipe equipment for a set period of time. "We brought our staff for training. We were going to hire more staff members to monitor social distancing and ensure members were wiping down equipment after they were using it," adds Drapers.

Draper says the industry is being treated unfairly. "There's damage done because now there's a picture painted to the public that our gym facility is not clean or it's unsafe for people to set foot into because it's going to spread the COVID virus, which has not been proven. In fact, there's a study in Europe that shows the opposite effect," notes Draper. "There's been no true explanation or data given to the industry to back this continued closure."

Draper says she's 100 percent confident in her gym's cleanliness. "I feel more safe and we've had members say they feel more safe than going into a restaurant or to a Wegmans. We are a large facility where we are large in size but we don't have a huge membership base," explains Draper. "We created a locker system so we know when people use a locker system, they hand over a magnet afterward and our staff immediately goes in and cleans that locker."

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