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Gym Owners Say They're Being Unfairly Targeted As COVID Cases Rise

SOMERVILLE (CBS) - The owner of a fitness studio in Somerville says he'll defy a city order to close his facility at midnight, saying he'll keep it open to members only and one on one appointments. "We don't mean to be disrespectful but we feel our safety measures are beyond those of any other indoor facility," said Jeff Butterworth, owner of Rx Strength Training.

He says members are already spaced apart in what he calls workout cubbies and has strict controls in place. "This is a seven by seven cubby, and it's spaced seven feet away from another cubby keeping people fourteen feet apart," Butterworth explained.

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If he's forced to close his doors again Butterworth says he might not make it and he's not alone.

Jody Merrill who owns several Btone fitness studios, including Boston, says she's already deeply in debt. "You just feel like a failure but it's completely out of our control," said Merrill.

She's closing her studios per orders of the city of Boston as it rolls back to phase two step two with rising COVID cases. But it's another hit she can barely afford. "It's a huge blow to step back just as we're starting to see more people coming into the studio," Merrill said.

Constant disinfecting takes care of surfaces, members are distanced and masked, and she says there are strict controls over who comes in. "I wouldn't be crusading to stay open if I thought it wasn't safe," she said.

The business owners believe they're being unfairly singled out with what they say is no evidence of coronavirus spread in their facilities. "What it's going to create is a red herring situation where people think the problem is being combatted but the real issues are household and social gatherings and irresponsible measures at other indoor places," said Butterworth.

He isn't sure if his decision will result in penalties, but he says it's a risk he'll take with a business he can't risk.

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