Retro Fitness CEO on NJ reopening gyms: ‘It should have happened a long time ago’

Tuesday marked a “very exciting day” for the 51 Retro Fitness gyms in New Jersey that were allowed to reopen from the COVID-19-mandated closure for the first time since March, CEO Andrew Alfano told FOX News.

Under Gov. Phil Murphy’s order, gyms in the state were given the green light to operate at 25{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} capacity starting Tuesday as long as appropriate safety preactions are in place. The directive effectively ended 169 days of mandated closures that took a financial toll on the small business owners that run the gyms, Alfano said.

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Retro Fitness has roughly 140 franchised clubs across 12 states that are either open or in development. Alfano noted that 47 states have relaxed restrictions and allowed residents to head back to gyms in some capacity. New Jersey and New York, however, are two of the last few states to follow suit, he said.

(Retro Fitness)

Still, Tuesday marked a step in the right direction for the company and Alfano, who had been pushing for gyms to reopen for some time. Alfano said working out not only helps people physically but mentally as well.

“People need people,” he said.

Now, members have a chance to get back to their fitness journey, which Alfano said became even more important during the pandemic when people were faced with daily briefings on health care.

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“I think people have the opportunity to become more educated on health and fitness and health clubs being an extension of health care … Exercise is medicine and being fit and healthy is the best vaccine,” he said.

Getting to this point, however, took too long.

Alfano says he believes the federal and state governments “took all the right steps and measures” in deciding how to reopen operations. His issue has to do with the “the length of time” it took to do so, he said.

“It should have happened a long time ago,” he said, adding that if New Jersey had done what other states were doing “we would have been much further along.”

Even Murphy noted that the move was “a long time coming,” however, it was on hold due to the fact that indoor facilities presented risks that could lead to the virus spreading.

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Still, Alfano is satisfied with the 25{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} occupancy allowance but hopes that number will increase soon.

Alfano is making sure the company’s gyms across the state are capped at 25{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} and that group classes are limited to one person per every 200 square feet of space. Temperature checks, questionnaires and waiver signing are required upon entry and masks must be worn at all times. The gyms also keep a log of who comes and goes for contract tracing.

“The faster we can illustrate that 25{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9} is safe, the faster we can get to 50{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9}, 75{554322552816a46baa129cc1ab31b2aae22be5e23f407658ace83a643d80b0e9},” he said.

His focus now is getting these small business owners on track, he said, adding that many of them were forced to take out small business loans and second mortgages to stay afloat because they were shut down due to the pandemic.

“The fight for financial relief isn’t over,” he said.

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