Urban Body Fitness has lost a third of its clients and laid off all of its instructors, but the gym’s out owner is determined to get through the pandemic while providing a safe space to get fit.
The gym closed March 19 following Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ order that shuttered the city’s bars, clubs, gyms, movie theaters and other in-person venues. It had a soft reopening for trainers and clients only on April 29 with a maximum capacity of 16.
“That was great because it allowed us to make sure we had all our procedures in place correctly,” owner Rad Slough (photo) told Project Q Atlanta.
Urban Body then reopened to all members on May 2 with a number of new safety precautions. Visitors are required to wash their hands when entering, get their temperatures checked, grab a Lysol bottle to spray down the equipment after use and practice social distancing.
“They’re real good about cleaning, and we have some six-foot by eight-foot areas for benches,” Slough said. “When you put your bottle in it, it’s your space. No one goes into that space until you clean it up and take your bottle back up.”
Only 35 people are allowed in the 14,000-square-foot gym at one time, Slough said.
“I want to make sure we’re giving them a safe environment to work out in,” he said. “Because if it’s safe for my members, it’s safe for my staff. That’s huge. We’re a health facility.”
Employees all wear masks, and the gym made them mandatory for visitors following after Bottoms made them mandatory on July 8. The gym will remain open following the mayor’s order on July 10 moving the city back to Phase I of its reopening plan due to a spike in coronavirus cases.
Slough was granted a Payment Protection Program loan through the federal Small Business Administration relatively quickly.
“I was really lucky,” he said. “It came through before my second rent was due [after the shutdown]. My members approved running billing for April so we could pay rent and employees. That ran out at the end of April, but we got our PPP on April 26 so that gave us enough money to do three payrolls and a rent and almost a fourth payroll.”
Still, Slough had to lay off all five of his instructors, who were paid through the end of May. A third of the gym’s members canceled their accounts, and the number of visitors is down by at least two-thirds.
“We had 1,400 people coming through every day on average and now we have 400 at best,” Slough said. “We were doing 14 loads of laundry with 1,400 people and we’re still doing 14 loads of laundry with 400 people because of all the rags.”
“My biggest concern is dermatitis from all the Lysol. We ask everybody to wash their hands on the way out of the gym to take the Lysol off their hands,” he added.
Slough is preparing for the worst as flu season approaches and the pandemic rages on.
“We’re planning on a second wave in the fall,” he said. “That’s a given.”
This story is made possible through a grant from Facebook Journalism Project's COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.
Top photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood