Red-zone gyms are campaigning for the Ontario government to reopen after the province made an exception and changed the rules for dance studios earlier this week.
On October 9, the Ford government announced that it would close restaurants, gyms, cinemas and casinos in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel for 28 days.
However, the province confirmed Monday that dance studios in the red zones of COVID-19 will be allowed to reopen with some new rules, including a limit of ten people per class.
"We want to make sure our voices are heard because we don't feel heard at all right now," said Rob Lavoie, who owns Fortis Fit in Orléans.
By Wednesday afternoon, Lavoie and more than 15,000 gym owners, staff and members had signed a petition in Ottawa urging the province to reconsider the closure.
New guidelines allowed dance studios in red zones to reopen this week, but they now have to work with a limit of 10 people per class. (Courtesy Dana Hanes Dance Studio)
Nepalese MPP and Minister of Sports Lisa MacLeod disapproved of an interview, but her office made a statement.
"Unlike a class in a fitness setting like a gym, which is usually done on a drop-in, one-time, or episodic basis, most youth or dance studio programs need to enroll in multi-week or annual programs week after week with the same participants Attend the class – work together effectively, make contract tracking and case management a lot easier, "the statement read.
Lessons from the dance lobby
The move to the opening of dance studios takes place after an organized campaign by the dance studios.
"As a community, we've really come together," said Dana Hanes, who owns the Dana Hanes Dance Company in Ottawa and is a member of a group that represents studios across the province called Dance Safe Ontario.
Rob Lavoie, owner of Fortis Fit in Orléans, and more than 15,000 gym owners, staff and members signed a petition in Ottawa urging the province to reconsider gym closings. (CBC)
"We sent e-mails and parents and children sent e-mails to local councils and provincial officials," Hanes said. A petition received more than 20,000 signatures in three days.
Hanes said the studios are sticking to the new limit of ten students per class and will ask students to wear masks.
Gyms increase the heat
Lavoie tweeted his frustration with MacLeod in response to her announcement. It contained a photo of his empty gym.
"It's disappointment, it's frustration, it just feels swept aside," Lavoie said.
How does that differ from a distant class of 9 in our 5000 square meter facility? We register in advance, do not share any equipment and stay in our stations. The lack of consistency is really frustrating. pic.twitter.com/1XXirHUcAz
– @ fortisfitottawa
He said there are roughly 15 people including trainers, a massage therapist, a chiropractor, and a nutritionist with jobs in the line, not to mention the impact on members who have told him the facility is as much part of their mental health system as it is it's about their physical well-being.
"We all believe that physical fitness is essentially an essential service," he said.
The prime minister was asked this week about allegations of unfair treatment of gyms and whether the province could reconsider the lockdown on smaller gyms in particular.
Doug Ford said the province is considering options, "but the next question, if we go forward, is how about the other gyms and then one more and it just goes on and on and on."
Lavoie said he and other owners would like the opportunity to meet with government officials to discuss new criteria the province deems necessary to meet safety requirements.
"We will do whatever it takes," he said.