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Gym and fitness center owners urging governor to reopen

Posted at 5:47 AM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 07:29:33-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gyms and fitness centers of all types are still waiting to legally reopen in West Michigan. But some have chosen to defy the governor's orders and open up anyway.

That's leaving the gyms that are following the rules feeling as if they are the ones being punished.

The closure of gyms actually prompted some small gym owners in West Michigan to file a lawsuit against the governor back in spring. We may see some movement from that case this week, as attorney Scott Erskine plans to file a new summary judgment motion this week, arguing the governor's orders have gone on too long, violating the gym owners' constitutional rights.

In the meantime, a pair of gym owners who are not part of that lawsuit are dealing with mounting pressure from members to reopen, and worse, many members leaving to find gyms that are open.

While gyms can hold outdoor classes for now, they worry what will happen if this drags on until winter.

Tom Sullivan is the co-owner of 616 Fit in Grand Rapids. Since shutting down in March, Sullivan and his wife have created online content for their members and even lent out some of their equipment for people to use at home.
They've been holding outdoor classes at a local high school when the weather allows.

But even with all that, it's still a struggle to stay afloat as a small business.

Amy Schoonover owns Flirt Fitness and has had to consolidate three locations to two during the pandemic. Schoonover said they've been operating with COVID restrictions since even before the pandemic, with equipment already spaced apart, no sharing between members, and strict cleaning during and between classes.

Both owners are frustrated that following the rules is still leaving them struggling.

"People have asked, why can't you just open anyway? I just can't, I mean, I can't with good conscience," Schoovover explained. "Safety is our number one priority, so we want to follow those rules. We want to make sure that we're set up for success. We don't want to open and then have something happen where we have to be shut down again.

"It's kind of like the kid who follows the rules and then watches the other kids get the candy at the end of the day," Sullivan said. He said times are tough, and his choice is between keeping his doors closed or opening illegally. There's people who are going to make that choice."