FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Broward County officials have announced a target date of May 26 to reopen local commercial gyms with restrictions, one day following a short-lived reopening of fitness centers in Fort Lauderdale in defiance of a county order.
Officials confirmed on Thursday evening the new reopening date following a conference call. That date also applies to the county’s beaches and hotels.
The announcement comes one day after Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis advised all gyms and fitness centers in the city to close, two days after some reopened for the first time in two months because, he said, the county will be imposing fines and possibly other sanctions.
Mayor Dean Trantalis announced the advisory in a message sent to residents, Wednesday.
The next day, 7News cameras captured the entrance doors to the LA Fitness in Fort Lauderdale. A sign taped to the doors read, “This location is temporarily closed to the public to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Ana Fernandes and Junior Fernandes, her husband, have owned American Top Team in Fort Lauderdale for nearly 15 years, and they said they were excited to welcome back their 10 employees and 300 members.
“It’s very hard for us as a business right now,” Ana said. “We’re open. Now, we’re closed. Now, we’re not open. We don’t even know when we can open.”
In the letter, Trantalis said Broward County officials “undercut” the city’s efforts to reopen the facilities.
“Gov. [Ron] DeSantis had given the green light to communities across the state of Florida to follow this course of action,” Trantalis wrote. “It was to be part of the first phase of relaunching our economy in light of the recent downturn in the COVID-19 infection rate.”
According to the mayor, a legal standoff between local and county officials is to blame for the closure of the facilities.
“We don’t want anyone fined or arrested because of this intergovernmental quarrel,” Trantalis wrote. “We continue to work hard to persuade the county to change its stance. It makes no sense to keep gyms closed. Our efforts to fight COVID-19 have worked well. We met all public health measurements to move into Phase 1 of reopening.”
“We’re very upset, you know, because we already take the plan to be open,” said Ana.
Gyms and fitness centers have been forced to change protocols as COVID-19 still looms.
LA Fitness locations have reduced the amount of people allowed inside and have moved cardio machines into larger areas to promote social distancing.
Broward County Mayor Dale Holness explained his decision to keep gyms closed.
“It is usually crowded. It is usually equipment that’s used over and over again by different people,” he said, “and when you’re exercising, it’s difficult for you to utilize a mask, a face covering. We risk the health of the population.”
But Trantalis defied Holness’ order, and until Wednesday, people in Fort Lauderdale headed back into the gyms to break a sweat.
“We need to understand that we’ve been ready, the community is ready, and the commercial gyms are ready to respond to the protocols that have been established for their reopening,” said Trantalis.
The county responded to Trantalis’ decision, threatening to arrest gym owners or fine them up to $15,000.
After being closed for nearly two months, American Top Team’s owners said their business has taken a major hit.
“That’s super hard for the business because we need to have a plan, but we are martial arts, and we’re never going to give up,” Ana said. “We’re going to continue to work hard, teach them by Zoom, teach them everything and pray that soon we can have the business back.”
“We’ve lost almost $15,000 every month with the door closed over here,” Junior said. “That’s a lot of money for us.”
The owners said they have yet to fire or furlough any of their employees.
However, Broward gyms located inside condominium or homeowners association properties are back open.
Thursday evening, county officials advised leaders in Broward municipalities they can be more stringent, and it is up to them whether or not they want to wait until a later date to reopen gyms.
Officials will release an emergency order from the county administrator that will go into further detail as to how the reopenings will unfold.
It remains unclear when gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to reopen in Miami-Dade County.
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