WORCESTER — Gyms and fitness clubs are on a long list of sectors of the economy forced to scramble due to the state’s changing COVID-19 regulations and restrictions.
Starting Monday, a mandatory 9:30 p.m. closing time for most businesses will be lifted in the state, which means several local gyms that offer late hours will be able to stay open again.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced the change last week, along with the lifting of an overnight stay-at-home advisory. The governor’s order restricting gathering capacity to 25% remains in effect for at least another two weeks.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a Boston-based trade group representing more than 200,000 gyms and fitness clubs globally, recently estimated that 15% of fitness clubs and studios have closed permanently as of Sept. 30, and that up to 25% of health clubs could close by the end of 2020.
IHRSA cited a study showing U.S. fitness centers still in business are projected a 37% decline in revenue in 2020 over 2019; the industry has lost more than $15 billion due to the pandemic.
Gary Riello, owner of Anytime Fitness on Shrewsbury Street, said the business model for his four-year-old franchise was fully dependent on being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
He said the 9:30 p.m. mandatory closing time not only hurt his business — it also made it more of a risk to go work out. Having the gym’s availability compressed meant trying to fit more people in while it could be open.
“We were made less safe by having a curfew,” Riello said.
Being able to stretch his hours back out to 24/7 will allow customers to go when they want to go. He said after normal business hours, customers can work out any time of day or night by using a key fob they receive when they sign up.
Riello said he has a lot of police officers, firefighters, nurses and other front-line workers who need the after-hours availability a gym like his offers. He said he has worked hard to ensure his facility remains clean and safe during the pandemic, and he pointed to studies that have shown little increased risk of being infected with COVID-19 at gyms when compared to other businesses.
“At this point, 24-hour gyms are becoming essential,” he said.
The IHRSA trade group said it commissioned a study with the University of Oregon’s Consulting Group to examine the relationship between gym attendance and Colorado COVID-19 case data.
IHRSA said the study found “a non-statistically significant correlation between COVID-19 case rates and gym attendance.”
Riello said the 25% capacity restriction that remains in effect never really affected his business; he said for his facility, 25% equates to around 30 people. He said even in pre-pandemic conditions, he was lucky to have 10 to 15 people in there.
Riello said customers have been great about it, but the restrictions coming and going have hurt.
“You do what you have to do, and people, for the most part, understand what’s happening,” he said. “But I’ve owned the business for four years, and when this happens, it’s like starting over again.”