Local, State Mandates Cause Some Health Clubs to Close to Slow Spread of Coronavirus

[Editors’ note: This story is developing and will be updated as more information is gathered. 7 p.m. Eastern, March 17 update with news about Retro Fitness. 8 a.m. Eastern, March 17 update with news about 24 Hour Fitness. 8:20 p.m. Eastern, March 16 update with news about LA Fitness, Equinox, Life Time, Gold's Gym International, VASA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness.]

Many of the largest health club chains in the country as well as smaller clubs and non-profits are temporarily closing throughout the country as a way to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has been diagnosed in 3,813 people in the United States and has killed 69 people in the country as of March 16, according to a coronavirus tracking site by Johns Hopkins.

For some of the facilities, the closings have been mandated by local or state officials. Others are closing because members have been diagnosed with COVID-19. For still other operators, the closings are due to an abundance of caution.

President Trump on March 16 recommended all Americans "avoid gatherings and groups of 10 or more people," which may further limit the operational capacities of many facilities.

"We're asking all [Americans] to hold their gatherings to under 10 people," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said during a March 16 address. "Not just in bars and restaurants, but in homes. We really want people to be separated at this time."

LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Life Time and Gold's Gym International are four of the largest chains announcing they will close locations.

LA Fitness announced on March 16 that it would close all its locations until April 1. The company is extending memberships to cover the time the clubs are closed. The announcement also noted that janitorial and maintenance crews would be working on the clubs while they are closed. 

Late on March 16, 24 Hour Fitness CEO Tony Ueber posted a letter to the company website notifying members that 24 Hour Fitness would be closed starting March 17 until further notice. He promised that memberships would be extended for the same period the clubs are closed. The letter shared that members could use the 24GO app to access online workouts. The premium coaching option and new Les Mills online class options are being offered to users of the app for free during the shutdown. The company also entered a partnership with Trifecta, an organic meal delivery service, to have meals delivered. 24 Hour also is offering Future, its one-on-one personal training service for $19, an 87 percent discount, during the shutdown. The coach offers customized workouts and tracks the client through the use of a free Apple Watch. 

Life Time announced late on March 16 that it would close all its locations nationwide for an undetermined time. Life Time's announcement on its website said in part: "Based on recent orders and advisories from federal, state and local governmental authorities regarding COVID-19, all of our Life Time clubs will be closing no later than 8 p.m. in each time zone on March 16. The length of this temporary closure is dependent upon governmental guidance. Member accounts will be credited for the number of days the club is closed, and we will keep you updated with a reopening date."

The website's frequently asked questions section also stated that employees would continue to be paid

Gold’s Gym International announced in the evening on March 16 that it was closing its corporate-owned U.S. facilities until March 31. The facilities are in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Carolina. Franchisees will make individual decisions about whether or not to close their facilities. 

“This is not a business decision but a humanity decision,” Gold’s Gym CEO and President Adam Zeitsiff said in a media release. “We want to protect our community and people of all ages by doing what we can to flatten the disease’s curve. To fight this virus, we have to stand firm with everyone who is working to contain the spread. We are truly stronger together.”

Through May 31, Gold's Gym is offering free premium access for members and non-members to its personal training app, GOLD’S AMP. The app has more than 600 indoor and outdoor workouts with audio and video guidance. The company also is launching on-demand streaming video workouts.

Equinox, New York, also noted early on March 16 that it was closing some locations, but at 5 p.m. Eastern on March 16, it shared a short note on its website that it was closing all locations temporarily without noting a planned re-open date. 

VASA Fitness shared late on March 16 that it would close all 45 of its clubs effective noon on March 17. Clubs will remain closed until further notice, according to the media release. VASA will provide regular correspondence through e-mail, social media, website updates and text messaging to keep members informed when new information is available.

“With the health and wellness of our community at the core of everything we do, we believe closing all VASA Fitness locations proactively is the right move,” said Rich Nelsen, VASA Fitness CEO. “We made this tough decision based on guidance from medical experts and state and federal officials that have put in place measures for social distancing and group activities to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Together, we can make a big difference in helping our most vulnerable populations remain safe.”

Retro Fitness also has temporarily closed its locations in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan and five counties in Pennsylvania (Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware). The corporate team will work from home during this time and will continue to be paid, according to Victor Bao, senior vice president of marketing at Retro Fitness. All the clubs are franchises, so the corporate staff is helping franchisees find government benefits for small business owners and providing guidance on best practices. Members can choose to either freeze their memberships at no charge, receive a free month added or get three free personal training sessions. 

Gyms in some cities, counties and states have been mandated to close along with bars and restaurants. The areas affected as of March 16 are:

Prior to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont mandating the closings of gyms in his state, Chelsea Piers announced on March 13 that it would close its three facilities (Stamford, Connecticut; Brooklyn, New York; and Manhattan, New York) until March 31.

Chelsea Piers Managing Partner David Tewksbury said in a statement: “We believe that, given the circumstances, temporarily closing is necessary to support the health needs of the communities where we are located, and which we serve and is in the best interest of our 1,000+ staff members and thousands of athletes and patrons who call Chelsea Piers home. We did not make this decision lightly and recognize the inconvenience it will cause our valued customers and members. Our overarching concern is the health of our community.”

Prior to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf closing gyms in five counties in his state, Jim Worthington, owner of Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pennsylvania, announced he was closing his club on March 15 for two weeks. He also temporarily closed his Horsham Athletic Club.

Due to the Pennsylvania order, Purenergy Studio executives announced that their facilities would close until March 30. The company will record classes at the studio so they can stream on its website for members. 

Boston Magazine posted a list of health clubs and studios in Boston that are closed, as of March 13. Some facilities have closed until further notice (November Project). Others are closed for a few days for deep cleaning (EveryBodyFights), and others are closed until the end of the month (North End Yoga, Coolidge Yoga) while others are temporarily reducing class sizes (Barry’s Bootcamp, Handle Bar, BKBX and Back Bay Boxing). YogaWorks is allowing clients to freeze their memberships for three months.  

Members Diagnosed with COVID-19

Some clubs are closing due to members being diagnosed with COVID-19. The Edge in Burlington, Vermont, temporarily closed one of its locations after a member tested positive for the virus, according to WCAX3 TV station, but the facility re-opened on March 14.

The Rosemont Fitness Center in Rosemont, Illinois, has closed until March 30 after a member who regularly uses the pool was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, according to Journal-Topics.com.

It’s not just larger clubs or those on the Coasts being affected. Even in Jackson, Wyoming, some facilities are closing. Julie Guttormson, the owner of studio VIM in Jackson, has temporarily closed her studio to group classes, she announced on her website, although one-on-one training is available by appointment. She is allowing members to rent weekly an indoor bike for home use while the facility is closed, and she is offering free online barre, Pilates, yoga, ride, HIIT and Mommy and Me classes. She also is putting memberships on hold.   

Club Industry has reached out to several health club companies to check on their plans. This story will be updated as responses are received.

Non-Profits Affected

Commercial clubs aren’t the only ones being affected. Several parks and rec facilities have closed, as mayors or governors in some cities and states ask people to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people.

The YMCA of the USA is a national resource office for the country’s 2,600 YMCAs. It released a statement about the coronavirus. In part, the statement reads: “Each local Y is keeping a close eye on the developing news and recommendations from national and local health authorities. Ultimately, each Y is responsible for taking the steps it deems necessary to best ensure the safety of everyone in its community.”

The YMCA offers Y360, which offers free online classes, such as yoga, boot camp and barre, through YouTube for members of Ys across the country.

The YMCA of Middle Tennessee has suspended group exercise programming starting on March 16, and two of its branches—the Brentwood Family YMCA in Brentwood, Tennessee, and the Y’s Christ Church location—were closed for a deep cleaning over the weekend of March 14-15 after an employee at the Brentwood Y tested positive for the coronavirus. The two facilities will re-open on March 16.

In Illinois where the governor has called for the shut down of gyms along with restaurants and bars, the YMCA of Rock River Valley in Rockford, Illinois, has closed its five facilities until March 31.

On March 15, the YMCA of Greater Louisville temporarily closed seven branches for two weeks, although it will still hold individual fitness and aquatics classes at five locations, according to its website.