Emotions running high for small gym, studio owners in Central Florida as they wait to reopen

Owners hopes for green light from governor in phase 2

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – It’s been 8 weeks since Florida went into lockdown and stay-at-home orders were put into place. For small businesses like private gyms and workout studios, emotions are running high as they are still waiting for the green light to reopen.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ guidelines for phase one reopening specifically did not include gyms and fitness centers. As a date for phase two remains a mystery, anxiety is building up in the health and fitness community.

“It’s really heartbreaking. It’s hard,” Laura Cascaddan, owner of SWEAT gym in Orlando’s College Park area. She’s hasn’t seen her clients in almost two months and wasn’t able to make her rent payment for the month of May.

“People have made like donations and just done random things for my son and I to make sure that we’re OK,” she said Wednesday.

The single mom says it hasn’t been easy but is staying strong for her kids.

“I’m here and I’m alive and I’m above ground and I’m gonna make it,” she said.

Jeremy Brassard owns Armor Crossfit gym in Ocoee. He opened his facility nine years ago and says if he can’t reopen soon, he might have to look for an alternate job. Brassard says Gov. DeSantis should consider places like his and smaller ones.

“When we train and our athletes are in here training, they’re always spaced out,” he said. “It’s completely different than your typical gyms you know. We’re always very clean, we’ve always sanitized all of our equipment before and after.”

In Orlando, Katie Cowan, who owns Fit 2 Row, removed 11 rowing machines from her studio to abide by social distancing guidelines and added hand sanitizers to each machine.

“I’m a small business, I’m not a franchise,” Cowan said. “We have no contracts so I don’t have money coming in on a monthly basis for a year, we go month-by-month. I still have the monthly rent to pay here.”

Cowan says she pays $5,000 a month for a 4,600 square foot space--a passion of her’s that she hopes to re-open before June.

“I’m here for the people and I miss my clients and the clients are calling saying ‘hey when are you gonna open?’ And like 'can we come in?” she said.

For Cascaddan, her gym is her main source of income.

"I can't bill, I can't do anything nobody can do anything which means I have no revenue coming in, and as a single mom I mean that's a big hit," she said.

These small business owners say all they want is for their voices to be heard. A community hurting and eager to open up their doors again.

"For the welfare and mental welfare of the people, open us back up, just allow the smaller ones, small business owners to open back up," Cowan said.

“If a restaurant can open up at 25% with proper distancing and guidelines and everybody’s doing what the government is asking them to do why can’t we do that?” Cascaddan said.

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