The Pocatello-based Gold’s Gym went against the governor’s “stay-healthy” order by re-opening Tuesday amid the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting concerns among many in the community.
Gov. Brad Little’s four-stage plan to re-open Idaho says gyms are not allowed to re-open until phase two, which starts May 16 if the COVID-19-related criteria is met.
Gold’s Gym on Flandro Drive in Pocatello was previously closed since Idaho’s stay-at-home order started in late March. The business informed customers at the start of May about its re-opening and new safety precautions, including reduced hours, increased cleanings and social-distancing measures.
Ari Price, director of operations for the Pocatello gym, said other Idaho gyms also opened recently and encouraged Gold’s Gym to join them. She did not wish to comment in further detail.
Southeastern Public Health Executive Director Maggie Mann declined to comment about the specific situation.
Generally, Mann said if someone complains to SIPH about a business violating the governor’s order by being open, the health district will tell the business the importance of closing and may work with local law enforcement to approach the business again after that.
Mann said issuing a misdemeanor citation to a business is an option for violating the “stay healthy” order, but SIPH has continually said its aim is to be cooperative with businesses.
“What we would like to focus on is businesses in the community that are choosing to follow the guidance, despite the hardship to them,” Mann stated in an email. “Those businesses are to be really commended.”
Mann said she does not take SIPH’s oversight of businesses lightly.
“This is not as straight forward as walking in and closing a business. There are all kinds of ramifications for taking action like that and we take it very seriously,” Mann wrote. “We’re trying to be constructive. We’re trying to be collaborative and we would never make a decision to shut a business down or pull a license or take an action like that on a whim.”
Gold’s Gym going against the governor’s order is giving other local gyms an inclination to follow its lead, according to Dan Cravens, former regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor.
“If someone as a business chose to ignore the order and open up their business ahead of other businesses in their sector, that would give them an advantage, probably an unfair advantage in the view of many,” Cravens said. “I think if a business opens before they’re allowed to per the governor’s order, that certainly creates a temptation for businesses to follow suit and do the same thing.”
Jeff Huckstep, who had to temporary shut down his Chubbuck dog grooming business in early April, reacted to SIPH not closing down Gold’s Gym.
“I’m sure if a small gym had opened back up, they would’ve been on it but Gold’s Gym is a big name,” Huckstep said. “They should be even across the playing board for all businesses.”
He said SIPH told him a misdemeanor would be filed if he did not close, so he shut down until mid-April when Gov. Little amended the stay-at-home order, which allowed his business to re-open.
After telling him to close, he said he wished he would have been informed by SIPH that the business could open under the amended order, instead of learning information from a customer and confirming it with the state’s COVID-19 hotline.
“It was interesting to me that they would be so gung-ho to shut us down, but they didn’t notify us at all when we could open up under strict guidelines,” Huckstep said. “We had to do our own research to know that we’re essential again.”
Gold’s Gym in Pocatello is now in the first phase of its own three-stage plan to fully reopen that it announced in an email to customers.
For instance, childcare and racquetball will not be available until phase two, which it estimated to start May 18 according to the email. The return to normal operations is phase three, which does not have a listed target date.
On Monday, it was reported that Gold’s Gym International Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to financially restructure, but stated locally owned franchises should not be impacted.
“To be clear, the filing should not impact our licensing division,” the company said in a statement. “It is not associated with any of our locally owned franchise gyms, nor will it prevent us from continuing to support our system of nearly 700 gyms around the world.”