Gyms prepare to open at 25% capacity

Gym owners figuring out how to reopen at 25% capacity

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Johnny Blount and his gym’s members went into the coronavirus shutdown strong, expecting the stay-at-home order to be short-lived.

Two months later, Blount’s budget for Geaux CrossFit has taken a beating.

“At this point, we’re kind of in the hole at each month," Blount said.

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Around 40% of his members have left because they’re unable to pay the membership fees. He has tried to offer online classes and even workouts in a park, but that has not been enough to pay the bills.

When Governor John Bel Edwards announced Monday, May 11 that Louisiana was entering Phase 1 of reopening, Blount said he was “pumped.” He owns a type of business that will be able to open on a limited scale.

Restaurants, salons, gyms, and a number of other businesses will be allowed to reopen Friday, May 15 at 25% of their capacity.

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For Geaux CrossFit, the building can hold just under 200 people. Even at its peak before the coronavirus, classes were never more than 20 people, well under the 25% threshold.

“We’re going to reduce that even further down to 15, that way we have plenty of leeway,” he said.

On top of that, his gym will require members to sign up for classes, wait outside until their class begins, leave after the class to limit the number of people inside the building, and members will have to bring their own towels. Blount says he has also stocked up on cleaning supplies.

“We’re going to be wiping down the door handles after classes. We’re making sure we don’t have class crossover,” he said. “So we’re going to reduce the class length so everyone can leave the building before the next class comes in and just all kinds of other procedures we’re coming up with to reduce any spread of anything that comes about.”

For larger gyms, determining the capacity limits and how to operate under the “new normal” is a little tougher.

Calloway’s Health and Fitness has already been open in defiance of the governor’s order. Owner, Donnie Calloway, says he will follow the guidelines.

“I’ve already talked to Butch Browning and they’re going to give me a percentage of what this building should hold, maybe with the equipment and the distance and everything and by the time that happens, we’ll know just how many people are supposed to be in here and I’ll tell them they have to come back at another time, if it comes to that,” Calloway said.

Questions like how many people can be in a space have been flooding the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal (LAOSFM).

Fire Marshal Butch Browning says his office is mostly working on education right now, not enforcement.

“We’re actually going out, we’re on the phone, we’re answering questions, we’re giving advice. People are texting us pictures of a table space and saying, ‘Hey, does this look right?’” Browning said. “So we’re really in a teaching mode right now.”

Browning says most business owners he has spoken to say they’ll be in compliance with the new order, but most are just happy they will soon be able to reopen.

“The common thing I’ve been hearing from the business owners is, ‘I don’t want to put customers in harm’s way,’” he said. “'Tell me what to do and I’ll do more than what I’m supposed to because it’s important to me that I protect their safety, the safety of my employees, and that I get back into commerce.'”

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