Fitness studio owners grapple with staying open amid rising COVID-19 cases in Calgary

·4 min read

Many Calgary fitness studios were anxious to reopen with precautions, as soon as they were allowed under the province's reopening plan last month.

But with a report that more than 40 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to an indoor cycling studio in southwest Calgary — and cases on the rise in the city — some of those businesses are choosing to close again.

Barre Body Studio is one of them.

"We decided to close the doors on Monday, and that decision wasn't made easily," said owner Marlo Brausse.

"It's a huge financial sacrifice, but it's also a big undertaking to run an operation with the stress on the shoulders of a small business owner to be responsible for a large body of people coming into our space.… We become responsible for their families, and their places of work, and their children and the grandparents that are attached to that family. And it's a lot for one place to carry."

Brandi Wilson, who owns Metta Yoga Calgary in Country Hills, has decided to stay open.

"Things are starting to change quickly, it's a moving target as we all know. But in the beginning, as of June 12th, up to present, it's been very well received," Wilson said. "We are fortunate to have a very big space. So it's extremely easy for us to have our rooms marked off with the mats six feet apart."

Both business owners joined the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday to discuss their difficult choices.

For Wilson, ramping up the safety measures and educating staff makes her feel confident that her customers can come in and do yoga safely.

Dave Holland/Canadian Sport Institute
Dave Holland/Canadian Sport Institute

"We've changed how we've operated in the yoga studio as far as the flow of the studio goes, and the classes themselves," she said. "So lots and lots of measures put in place to prepare to open and, honestly, the community has been extremely grateful."

Alberta Health's latest data shows that 42 people who now have active cases of the virus contracted it from an outbreak at the Ride Cycle Club on 17th Avenue SW.

The club closed on July 15 after a number people connected to the studio tested positive. Staff have been contacting anyone who attended their training classes between July 6 and July 13, telling them to get tested.

Ride Cycle Club says it was following Alberta Health's COVID-19 guidelines and safety protocols at the time of the outbreak.

Submitted by Brandi Wilson
Submitted by Brandi Wilson

Wilson is keeping a close eye on near-daily changes to the rules.

"We actually just implemented even further restrictions in the studio, and measures to ensure masks are now worn, again along with the mandatory bylaw that's coming," she said.

"We took the proactive measures to implement it immediately. So every student instructor has to now wear a mask inside the studio when entering and then once they're on their yoga mat they can take off the mask.

"We've been guided by Dr. Hinshaw not to wear masks during physical activities, so they can take it off during class and then put it back on. And you know that's just today — that's what we know today. It will absolutely change, I'm sure, in the near future, if not tomorrow."

Brausse is also keeping a close eye on local and provincial developments, but says each business owner has to evaluate their own space.

For now, she is temporarily suspending operations until Aug. 3, with plans to reopen using similar safety measures — masks as people enter and leave the space, as well as the usual protocols and procedures as stipulated by Alberta Health Services.

"That gives us some time to see what happens in Calgary," said.

"Our space is a little bit different. We have a smaller studio and have implemented the three-metre, 10-feet distance, versus the two-metre, six-foot distance, which means we have less people per class and less opportunity to bring in any additional revenue than just maybe covering costs, while propped up on government aid right now."

For both studio owners, it's a matter of weighing the financial costs and the emotional costs.

"It's been on the forefront of my mind preparing to open every day, educating and updating my entire team to ensure that we are all on top of our game every single day, every single class, to ensure the safety of our community," Wilson said.

"So it does weigh on us … but at the same time, yes, absolutely following what's going on. And we'll have to pivot on a dime when we need to."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.