Owner: 50,000 out of work with gyms still closed in NJ

Gabrielle Saulsbery//August 7, 2020

Owner: 50,000 out of work with gyms still closed in NJ

Gabrielle Saulsbery//August 7, 2020

Planet Fitness locations have hosted a cumulative 30 million workouts since gyms began opening up across the country, and they’ve led to few COVID-19 cases: Less than 1 in 135,000, according to board member and former New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson.

“We have contact tracing. Every person who comes into our club, we know who they are, we check them in,” he said. “[The low rate] is because we’re very strict about the way we do things that we feel we’re able to offer people the benefits of exercise without the risks of COVID.”

Benson joined eight fitness center executives and state Sens. Paul Sarlo, D-36th District; Teresa Ruiz, D-29th District; Troy Singleton, D-7th District; and Steve Oroho, R-24th District, in a Thursday hearing from the Senate’s fiscal recovery strategists with a focus on health and fitness clubs, which have had little guidance on what to expect moving forward during the pandemic and when their businesses might be able to reopen again.

Dance Connection
Indoor rec businesses were allowed to reopen in New Jersey with limited capacities at the beginning of July. – LARKEN ASSOCIATES

Fitness & Wellness Managing Partner Leslie Adelman Banks shared with legislators that the closures are causing real harm to residents in the hospitals her company is affiliated with, highlighting fitness centers as a place to aid not only physical strength but mental health, and a place to enjoy.

“The worst one that I’ve experienced yet is a member that came to us because we helped her maintain her health,” Banks said. “And she wrote us a letter this week saying: ‘My health has seriously deteriorated since March, and I now have to get my affairs in order, and I’m sorry to say I need to cancel my membership because I can’t leave my husband strapped with having to maintain or take care of it because I will not be here.’ And that is the saddest.”

Kevin Johnson, owner at Team85 Fitness & Wellness in Bordentown, noted that the lack of guidance affects more than 50,000 employees.

Johnson, a former National Football League player, has invested over $50 million in the Team85 campus—and over the past five years, has paid millions of dollars in employment taxes and property taxes to the state of New Jersey. He’s employed 6,000 New Jerseyans.

“Now the financial damages that I’ve had to date, we cannot survive in this manner. If the state does not allow my fitness center to open with such limited capacity, it’s financially impossible for me to open my doors,” Johnson said.

Currently, 47 of the 50 states in the country allow health clubs to operate, Retro Fitness Chief Executive Officer Andrew Alfano shared. His chain, all independently owned franchises, has declined by nine locations in New Jersey over the 143 days of closures.