The fitness industry in Hawaii has been hit hard by the public health restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus. Crossfit Hawaii coach Kimo Kockelman and UFC gym manager Cari Nishimura join Spotlight Hawaii to discuss the impact Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s 4-tiered system is having on their businesses and others like them.
“The tier system handcuffs in a way that our business won’t be able to survive,” Kockelman said. “No one is expecting to thrive during this time, but you’ve got to give us a shot to have business as close to normal with the responsibility to keep all of our members safe. Because I don’t think there’s a gym owner out there who wants to be reckless. Everybody wants to keep their members safe.”
Under the current reopening phase, classes must be outdoors and limited to five people, including the instructor, and members must wear a face covering if they are less than six feet apart. In the next phase, indoor workouts can resume at 25% capacity, and in the fourth and final phase, facilities will have to limit capacity to 50%. These facilities are defined broadly to include traditional gyms, dance centers, yoga and barre studios, hula halau, and others.
Nishimura and Kockelman have each pivoted to offering classes online, but say that model is not sustainable for meeting their high overheads. They said rent relief would help, but would still likely not cover enough of their operating costs to keep afloat.
Fitness facilities are considered high risk, and indoor workouts have been limited, in part because of COVID-19 clusters at two Honolulu gyms in July.
“There were some images out there that I think even gym owners were shocked by, where people are too close together, they’re not wearing masks, this was early on, when the rules were not as tight,” Kockleman said. Since then, he says things have changed.
“You can make it safe,” he said.
Both Nishimura and Kockleman said they understand the concerns, but insist their facilities have taken full precautions and believe they are being unfairly restricted.
“We’re all wearing masks constantly. We’re taking temperatures at the front door, there’s sanitation stations all over the place,” Nishimura said. “I think we do a better job at social distancing and sanitation than any other retail outlet too, especially like a Costco or Sam’s. Not to bring them up, but it gets pretty crowded in there as well.”
Nishimura has started a petition to classify gyms as “essential” because of the physical and mental health benefits they provide. She has collected several thousand signatures and is working with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii to try to get her concerns presented to the City.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.