A sprawling recreation complex in Ottawa's east end has become the latest business to fall victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For 44 years, the Ottawa Athletic Club on Lancaster Road has offered tennis, swimming, golf lessons, fitness classes, summer camps and other recreational activities.
Owner Sol Shabinsky announced the club's closure on social media, saying COVID-19 has created "significant challenges" for businesses like his that rely on large numbers of people congregating in close proximity. The club will close for good this Friday.
Before COVID-19, the 150,000-square-foot sports complex saw about 1,500 members drop in each day, said general manager Marc Peterson, who's been with the club 20 years. Lately, that number has slowed to a trickle.
Gyms and fitness centres in Ontario were allowed to reopen earlier this summer, but with strict rules and extremely limited numbers that meant the Ottawa Athletic Club was only able to reopen its tennis courts and summer camps safely.
"Our protocols were unbelievable. We were still checking temperatures for everybody that was walking in. We did everything we could, honestly," Peterson said. "We had a wonderful team to work with, that worked very hard to try to survive, but with COVID it's just impossible."
It's not clear yet what will happen to the facility, said Peterson. For now, he said he's focused on helping his team through what is a "very difficult day."
The club normally employs about 150 people including administrative staff, directors, trainers and part-time instructors.
"There's so many members that used to call this their second home. It's the same for us," Peterson said.