Small California fitness studios push to reopen: ‘Don't compare us to gyms’

Posted at 3:17 PM, May 07, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – When the New Year hit, the owner of midtown Sacramento's Humani Pilates was ready for it. Maria Bardet has been in business for six years and her popular studio was busier than ever with clients quickly filling up her small classes. And then, it all came crashing down.

“It is devastating,” said Bardet. “It feels like I’m failing my community and my employees, and I have very little control over that.”

To make matters worse, Bardet says she and many others who own and operate small fitness studios feel like they're not being heard.

"We're looped into this gym category and we want the decisionmakers to know is that we’re completely different from gyms and the way we operate puts us at a much lower risk than that,” said Bardet.

About 90% of Bardet’s personal training clients were recommended to her from a physical therapist or a doctor. She's been social distancing long before it was state mandated. She’s taken steps beyond that to prepare for reopening, spacing equipment even further, offering even smaller classes.

Bardet believes the quality of the health and wellness she provides should put her in a different category; one that would allow for a quicker reopening.

"I have students who are not in a wheelchair because now they’re able to walk because they’re doing functional movement here at the studio instructed by the professionals who spent their careers being able to instruct in that way,” said Bardet.

Bardet says she kept all her staff on payroll. Her instructors are well trained and valuable to the people she serves. She's done virtual classes but it's just not the same, financially or otherwise.

Bardet also says the PPP, or "Paycheck Protection Program," hasn't lived up to its promise. Its mission is to "help businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID 19 crisis."

“When I receive the money, I’m not able to reimburse myself for this big hole I’m in financially, so when my business does open, I’m already starting in this huge gaping hole – no cash flow and no working capital.”

We asked California Governor Gavin Newsom's office about small fitness studios and the phase they're in. We were told "interviews are not doable at this time. When we have more information on this topic, we will be happy to share it with you."

"We don’t have a lobbyist and a trade association that speaks on our behalf,” said Bardet. “We’re just a bunch of small, scrappy business owners getting together trying to explain where we’re coming from and show what we do in the community.”

It’s a community which she believes would be so much healthier and better served if she were allowed back in motion.