(Annex Fitness on Yates Street remains shuttered/Victoria Buzz)

Two whole months of surviving with zero revenue is a daunting prospect for any business, let alone those in a city’s downtown core that still have to pay the astronomical rents that come with a good location.

Yet some of downtown Victoria’s most popular gyms and fitness studios are taking it slow when it comes to reopening their venues after their pandemic-induced closure.

Workout facilities in the Island Health region were ordered to close until the end of May due to evidence of COVID-19 transmission at some venues. That order was lifted and gyms were allowed to reopen on May 19, over a week earlier than anticipated.

While some owners jumped at the chance to reopen their businesses, others took a slower approach in their efforts to comply with provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC guidelines.

See also: Gyms and fitness studios on Vancouver Island will be allowed to reopen May 19

In the heart of downtown Victoria, Annex Fitness owner Morgan Jones has kept her sparkling new fitness studio shuttered and does not plan to reopen until June 6.

Annex first opened its doors to the public in late 2019 and its offerings of three types of classes—spin, barre, and strength—and the accompanying luxurious service quickly made it a bustling centre for the city’s fitness enthusiasts.

They were abruptly ordered to shut down overnight in early April.

“It’s definitely not something I’d wish on anybody in their first year of business,” Jones tells Victoria Buzz. “In our three short months of opening, we have created a strong community there.”

A new look

Despite massive overhead costs, Jones and studio manager Mackenzie Reynolds have decided to take the time to restructure the facility and train all staff to meet enhanced health and safety guidelines.

When they do take down the boards from the windows of their Yates Street studio, the interior will look significantly different than what patrons are used to.

“We’ve dropped capacity in a major way. All three studios will be operating between 30 – 60 per cent capacity of where we were at,” says Jones.

Staff members who are not actively training will wear masks and gloves, locker room amenities will be removed, and showers will be closed.

Patrons will also be required to book their individual spots in the studio ahead of time before they can enter the facility.

As a result of these capacity restrictions, the studio owners have decided to open up a whole new facility at Uptown Shopping Centre called Annex Raw.

This no frills studio is designed to be a safe, one-stop shop for those craving their spin classes but unable to book in their bike time at Annex’s downtown location.

Days of hardship

Just one block over on the same street, Studio 4 Athletics owner Kevin Brett faced hardships familiar to nearly all businsesses when his 12,000 square foot gym space was forced to shut down.

“As a business owner I can say that it was frustrating because it’s difficult to turn a business off like a light switch, and it’s even harder to turn it back on,” said Brett.

“There’s staff to consider, supplies to order, equipment to be made ready, scheduling to work out.”

Brett and co-owner Darcy Dommett say they’ve incurred 100 per cent in losses over the past two months as a result of overhead costs and the fact that even those loyal customers who kept their memberships open during the shut down to support the business will expect a credit upon return.

Nevertheless, the business has held off on reopening until the first week of June.

According to Brett, the gym has always had rigorous cleaning protocols in place but they will be increasing the frequency of sanitization for their customers’ peace of mind.

“We’re fortunate that we do have a very large space here and so even if we operate at our full capacity, we’re still almost at double the recommended spacing protocols. I think people will feel good about that.”

Like Annex, Studio 4 Athletics has cut back on amenities like towel service, instated floor markings to enforce physical distancing, and limited the number of people that can be inside the facility at one time.

Silver linings

As a result of the pandemic-induced shut down, both of these downtown fitness facilities experienced the growing support of their community that may not have manifested otherwise.

During the period of lockdown, Annex and Studio 4 Athletics, like many other facilities, adopted a free virtual model in which trainers offered classes through video feeds on their social media channels or websites.

Both plan on making these online classes a complimentary part of membership packages due to their popularity.

“While we didn’t foresee going online, our Insta live videos drew in people who had never been to the studio and now want to come check us out,” says Annex studio manager Mackenzie Reynolds.

“There’s always a positive for everything.”