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Local gyms uniting in pushback to purple tier restrictions

Angel Russell
More than 25 SLO County fitness centers have joined the Wellness Coalition.

With California's purple tier COVID-19 restrictions, gyms can only be open for outdoor workouts. But a coalition of more than 25 fitness centers throughout San Luis Obispo County are vowing to keep their indoor operations going, despite any fines that may come their way.

The Wellness Coalition launched after SLO County was pushed back into the purple tier; it’s a group of fitness centers deciding to stick together in continuing their operations indoors.

Sleeping Tiger Fitness and Martial Arts owner Nathan Zimmerman is one of the creators.

“It’s been just crazy, the jerking back and forth on you’re allowed to be open, you’re not allowed to be open," Zimmerman said. "Just the constant changing, it’s exhausting and I think it’s exhausting for our members, too.”

Zimmerman said it’s not about "defying orders," but rather urging the county to acknowledge gyms as an essential health business. He argues gyms can continue to operate indoors safely under national Center for Disease Control guidelines. 

“So, capping class sizes...keeping at least six feet of distance between everyone in the room...enforcing masks and disinfecting equipment," Zimmerman said. 

Kennedy Club Fitness—one of the largest gym chains in SLO County—also joined the coalition. The company has already received two separate $1,000 fines for not complying to COVID-19 restrictions.

Zimmerman said part of the coalition would be raising money to help pay for any gyms that receive fines.

“I’m planning to fight the fines, honestly, if I get any,” Zimmerman said.

The owner of a pilates studio in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles said she decided to join the coalition because operating outdoors isn’t feasible for her. After KCBX News initially published this story, she requested anonymity due to concerns over enforcement penalties.

“I don’t think it’s healthy to have people working out in 50 degree weather," the studio owner said. "It’s not summer anymore.”

The pilates studio owner said she’s nervous about getting fines that she can’t afford in her already struggling business, but is relieved she’s not alone in the effort.

“I don’t think its fair we can’t be open but nail salons [can], and you can go get a tattoo but my studio can’t be open? It’s ridiculous," she said. "So I’m fighting to do whatever we can to stay open.”

County health officials said businesses found to be in violation of state public health orders could face fines, imprisonment or both.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.