‘We were ready’: Gym owners frustrated after being excluded from Phase 2

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — When Governor Roy Cooper first announced reopening the state in phases, he mentioned gyms in phase 2.

Now that phase 2 has been announced, gyms have been excluded and gym owners say their doors have been closed for too long.

“We were ready. We were ready for Friday at 5 o’clock,” TF Fitness and Nutrition Co-Owner Holly Lennon said.

Lennon was shocked when she heard they would not be permitted to reopen in Governor Cooper’s modified phase 2.

She says they had taken many extra steps to make sure their business followed all CDC guidelines, including installing a medical grade air purification system.

“We don’t really understand why we don’t have the opportunity to comply to the CDC regulations and other small businesses do,” Lennon said.

Lennon is concerned for the members who depend on gyms for mental and physical well-being.

“This is their prescription of choice,” she said. “We wouldn’t deny patients seeing doctors and we wouldn’t deny patients getting prescriptions filled at the pharmacy level, so who are we to dictate that they can’t come practice mental and physical fitness?”

She says she and her business partners invite elected officials like Wilmington’s Mayor Bill Saffo to come and speak with them to hopefully touch base with Governor Cooper.

She also invites TF Fitness clients to write to Governor Cooper, explaining why the gym is essential.

“I’m embarrassed. I’ve lived in North Carolina my entire life and, honestly, I’m disappointed and embarrassed by our state and Govenor Cooper’s decisions,” Lennon said.

Lennon says she believes the governor’s order is a violation of their constitutional rights.

Owner of Muscleworx Fitness, Jason Morgan, agrees and he plans to take legal action.

“Governor Cooper has left me with no other option than to take him to federal court and seek a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of Executive Order 130 and any other executive order that we feel prevents us from opening for business,” Morgan said.

After receiving no financial assistance from the state, Morgan has to downsize his gym.

He says he can no longer afford to keep his current location open.

“The landlords here and myself came to a decision. They have a legal right to look for a tenant that can pay rent. They are not bound to giving me any breaks due to COVID-19, other than they can’t evict me,” Morgan said. “We came to a decision that it would be mutually beneficial for me to allow them to have the space.”

Morgan is downsizing from his current 9,000 square footage to just under 3,000 square feet.

He says he was more than capable of meeting his financial obligations before he was shut down the first time.

“My business had increased about 33% per month and then we were shut down,” Morgan said.

He says Cooper’s decisions seem like random choices when it comes to what businesses he is allowing to open.

They’re sure not shutting liquor stores down and their excuse is people will go into DTS because they have a chemical dependency,” Morgan said. “Well, I’ve got news for you Governor Cooper. People have a chemical dependency to working out too. It releases certain hormones and certain enzymes in our bodies that make us feel good, that keep us healthy. It builds our immune system internally. This is an essential business and I’m gonna take your butt to federal court and prove it to you.”

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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