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San Francisco Gym Operators Call On City Officials To Change Business Classification

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- While gyms have been classified as non-essential since the pandemic began, a group of San Francisco operators are trying to shake off that designation and prove that they can operate safely.

DIAKADI Fitness is taking social distancing seriously. The training center has moved to a soccer field in Mission Bay, providing fitness equipment and 25-square-foot spaces for personal trainers to safely work with clients.

Monday was Skyler Brungardt's first workout since COVID-19 arrived.

"I've got dumbbells at home. It's not enough," Brungardt said. "Being cooped up and not having access to tools that I need to stay fit is tough! It's really difficult."

But despite all his efforts to bring the gym outdoors, co-owner Billy Polson said it's not nearly enough to cover operating costs.

"We're getting about 10 percent of our normal business that we would be getting inside," Polson explained. "It takes us about 60-70 percent just to pay the bare minimum of rent. So we're underwater every single week."

In order to survive, a coalition of 60 small gyms and fitness studios are appealing to San Francisco officials  Dave Karraker actually brought his small gym out onto the sidewalk of Market Street in the Castro District.

MX3 Fitness would have enough room inside for four properly-distanced clients at a time, but Karraker says they're being lumped into the same category as the huge mega-fitness clubs.

"The City is picking and choosing which businesses are going to survive, which industries are going to survive without really drilling down to see, 'Hey, is there a segment of that industry that we can actually split off to save?'" said Karraker

In July, the gym owners demanded the city turn over the COVID-19 data being used to justify keeping small fitness studios closed. Officials have not yet provided it, saying they need another two weeks to pull that information together.

Gym owners argue they surely are as important as the smoke shops and cannabis stores which have been designated as essential. They believe they should be in the same category as physical therapists who operate indoors and provide the exact same workout, but actually put their hands on patients.

Karraker says just moving his business out to the sidewalk isn't enough. Without help, he warns, the entire fitness industry will be soon be out on the street.

"If we don't get some kind of relief from the City to reopen in some meaningful fashion, we're going to go under," said Karraker.


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