Some Gym Members “Contemplating Suicide” Amid COVID-19 Shutdown, While Owners Struggle Financially
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, gyms, salons, and other personal care services have been some of the most negatively impacted businesses, according to the California Budget & Policy Center.
City of Angels Boxing gym in South Los Angeles has been home to many boxers looking to increasing their combat skills.
Alex Brenes is the owner of City of Angels Boxing with 21 years of experience, fighting both as an amateur and professional boxer. Brenes opened his gym seven years ago, hoping to engage the community with boxing.
On May 9, Brenes announced the closure of the gym due to financial instability and to ensure the health of his athletes.
“We are sad to announce that the #bestboxinggyminla will not reopen. After much deliberation, we’ve decided to close our doors for good. We want to thank all of our Angels (and Xxxorry) for all your support, love, and hard work helping us to make City of Angels Boxing a staple of this great town,” Brenes announced on City of Angles Boxing Instagram.
Brenes explained the decision to close the gym permanently extended past the financial hardships.
“The economic situation is part of it but a small part,” Brenes told Scriberr News. “The problem is we don’t believe we will stay safe because we are a boxing gym, and there’s a lot of contact.”
Jordan Castillano is a regular trainee at the City of Angels Boxing gym, although he and many other boxers were devastated with the news.
“It’s a sad situation because that gym is a second home to a lot of people, including myself. I didn’t think they would completely shut down, but I can see the financial hardship on trying to stay open,” Jordan Castillano told Scriberr News. “I think it was the right call because you can’t have a boxing gym run effectively with social distancing.”
The boxing gym meant more than boxing for Brenes. The gym has sponsored several amateur fighters, helped lower-income people train for free, and supported fundraisers for nonprofits that served to help children.
Phase Two of reopening did not allow gyms to open due to health concerns, but there have been situations of gyms across the state deciding to open.
“It’s very frustrating because of the sacrifice we have all done to try to follow the rules and do what’s correct,” Brenes said. “It makes it feel like we shouldn’t have done anything that we did.”
Whether or not the City of Angel Boxing gym will reopen is still a mystery for both Brenes and his athletes.
Although reopening was not in the original plan, Brenes explained that it might be a possibility in the near future.
The famed Gold’s Gym has numerous facilities across the country, including company-owned and franchised-owned gyms. But on April 15, the company announced a statement on Twitter that 30 of its gyms will permanently close.
A gym owner reopens due to mental health concerns
Louis Uridel is the owner of Metroflex Gym in Oceanside and did not want his gym to be another facility permanently closing due to financial hardships.
Although Phase 2 of reopening does not allow gyms to reopen open, Uridel decided on May 8 to open his gym.
Uridel explained as he calculated the amount of lost revenue and clients, he understood that the gym would not be able to sustain itself financially through the quarantine orders.
“If we were able to open June 1st, June 15st, or July 1st, we wouldn’t be open because we lost about one-third of our members through normal attrition and to the additional loss to the COVID-19,” Uridel told Scriberr News.
The decision was not only made because of financial hardship but, also for the concerns of Uridel’s client’s mental and physical health.
“I’ve received numerous messages from my people that work out here, and a lot of people workout for mental health. I have people who were contemplating suicide because the gym was there therapy. I had people who are considering and fighting they’re urges of getting back on drug use,” Uridel said.
Before opening, Uridel sent a letter to both the city and the Oceanside Police Department explaining his plans to reopen his gym.
The next morning, on May 10, Uridel was arrested for opening his gym with two misdemeanor charges, one violating county health code and two for obstruction of justice because he decided to stay open.
On May 13, Metroflex held a rally in front of the gym, and they have stayed open ever since. The gym has not witnessed any police presence for the past couple of days now, Uridel explained.
“It’s almost more convoluting than not coming out here, then coming every day,” Uridel said. “All these other gyms around the country like in New Jersey, they’re changing the locks or court orders.”
Uridel received a lot of media attention when he reopened his gym, from mainstream stations such as Fox News and One American News Network.
“They’re (city authorities) taking the thunder away a little bit by leaving me alone, which would also stop the thunder from spreading to other businesses,” Uridel said. “So maybe it’s like a tactical move on their part, it’s like leave this guy alone, and he won’t be as loud because I was pretty loud there for a while.”
Metroflex in Oceanside continues to stay open; they have made some adjustments to the gym to ensure the health of their clients.
The doors are open, fans on to provide proper circulation and airflow within the gym. The gym includes hand sanitizer stations with social distancing signs throughout the gym.
The recent media attention encouraged many people to sign up for a membership at Metroflex, Uridel explained.
California continues to move roll out regulations for its phased reopenings.