London fitness studios and centres worried about sustainability of new MLHU class size restrictions

In this April 2, 2019 photo, young ballet students stand in first position in a dance studio at a public school in the Chorrillos neighborhood, a poor part of Lima, Peru. AP Photo/Martin Mejia

Fitness and dance studio owners are speaking out about the negative impact the latest restrictions put out by the Middlesex-London Health Unit will have on their businesses.

A group of local small business owners and operators of health, fitness and yoga studios in London have penned a letter asking health officials to reconsider the restrictions in the Section 22 Order.

“The latest restrictions set on Wednesday 21st October by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, adjusted on Friday 23rd October, to be effective on Saturday 24th October hurt our businesses immensely,” the letter reads.

Gyms and workout facilities were officially allowed to reopen as part of Ontario’s Stage 3 reopening plan at the end of July amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, Dr. Chris Mackie, London and Middlesex County’s medical officer of health, announced several new restrictions targeting operators of indoor sports and recreation facilities, as well as health clubs and yoga studios, among others.

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Under the restrictions, the total number of people permitted in a class or organized activity was nine. Mackie later updated this rule on Friday to a maximum of 12 people after backlash from business owners.

Read more: MLHU makes adjustments to restrictions following consultations with local sports community

“My job is to try to do my best to balance the risks of keeping people safe and keeping our society going,” Mackie said on Friday.

“I understand that people are frustrated here. I think most of the frustration was related to people thinking that we were shutting sports down, which was never the intention.”

The update comes as Ontario is seeing increases in the number of daily COVID-19 cases and an outbreak at Hamilton’s SPINCO studio.

“The small businesses represented typically have a small footprint in which a maximum of 12 clients with 3-metre distancing is not possible,” the letter reads.

Under the new rules, all class participants need to stay 2-metres apart and classes operating in the same space need to be at least 3-metres apart.

Before the pandemic, the letter said, a studio of one of the businesses could host classes with 25 members.

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The letter — signed by F45 Training, Hi-Ignition Fit Lab, Hybrid Fitness, Modo Yoga London, Oxygen Yoga and Fitness, The Pole House, Rev3k Fitness and The Yoga Shack — said the way the rules are set up now is not sustainable long-term.

“Members are cancelling as there is no space in the class they want to attend.”

Read more: Some City of London programs paused as staff prepare changes to follow new health measures

Pam Cavaliere, owner of Jo Read Dance in London told Global News that the changes could mean some studios lose half of their business.

“People don’t want to go back to Zoom; they want the energy of being in class with other dancers,” she said.

Before the new restrictions, Cavaliere said she could have 19 students in one class properly physically distanced, with all students wearing a mask while entering and leaving.

With the number now down to 12, Cavaliere is worried about the loss in revenue and said she wishes the health unit had visited some of the London spaces and consulted with business owners before making the decision.

“I think some areas there needed to be changes, but how our dance studios were set up, we could have as many children as we can within our square footage.”


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