February 4, 2023

Eased capacity restrictions at Central Texas gyms won’t necessarily mean a major boost in business

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas is starting to see lower rates of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and because of that, Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday he is relaxing some restrictions over the next week.

Effective immediately, hospitals can begin doing elective procedures again. On Sept. 24, nursing and assisted living facilities can open for visits with certain protocols. And on Monday, many businesses that have been operating at 50% capacity can now expand to 75%—that includes places like restaurants, retail stores, office buildings and gyms.

But some local business owners say even though the state is easing capacity restrictions, other COVID-19 guidelines don’t allow for much growth.

Things won’t look much different at FIT Austin, now that Lateef Johnson can increase capacity from 50% to 75%.

“The capacity is one part of it, but we do keep people at six feet or better apart, so we are a small boutique studio and looking to find that space to allow for more people might be a little challenging,” Johnson said.

When they had to close their doors temporarily in March at the start of the pandemic, they invested in personal work stations to comply with social distancing guidelines. Spacing them out, only allows them to operate at about half capacity for the comfort of their members.

“At the end of the day, what we are faced with is people’s perceptions. They are wondering if they’re going to be safe when they come in,” Johnson explained.

Those types of perceptions have led to frozen or canceled memberships, reduced hours and even permanent closures at gyms across Central Texas.

Major chains like 24 Hour Fitness, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, closed three Austin locations back in June. The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce says gyms are still getting creative to retain members.

“People are working out with their private trainers on Zoom, people are doing yoga classes on Zoom, I also know that gyms have made adjustments to their physical spaces,” said Laura Huffman, President and CEO of The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Johnson has produced several YouTube fitness videos as a virtual solution to the pandemic.

“Here we are in this place of obstacles, we know we have to put in some work, make some tough decisions, but that’s what makes us stronger,” Johnson said.

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