Businesses bearing weight of pandemic restrictions, frustrated gym owner says

An Ottawa gym owner is demanding to know why her business is being forced to close again despite doing everything possible to keep clients and employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, the Ford government and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health announced it was reintroducing restrictions for dine-in restaurants, gyms, cinemas and casinos in some regions of the province. The new rules go into effect in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel region at midnight.

But Ashley Mathieu, who owns two Anytime Fitness locations in Ottawa, believes the rollback is an overreaction.

“They need to show some hard evidence here, because as a local business owner, it is extremely frustrating to keep having to lock our doors,” Mathieu said.

She said there have been no cases of COVID-19 at either gym location. Nevertheless, she’s being forced to close her doors once more, and may have to consider laying off staff if the closure stretches on.

“It affects us in much more than just a workout sense. It’s a livelihood that it affects, and I don’t think that the Ford government is really paying attention to a lot of that,” she said.

An employee cleans gym equipment at Anytime Fitness in Orléans on Friday. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Mathieu’s gyms had implemented a number of safety measures including restricting access to members only, installing Plexiglas around cardio equipment, ensuring people wear masks when not at a workout station, and having hand sanitizer available throughout the building.

Mathieu said members have to tap their cards when they enter, so they can be easily traced if a case of COVID-19 does occur.

Ashley Mathieu, who owns two Anytime Fitness locations, is frustrated her business is being closed in the current shutdown. 0:57

She’s also wondering why gyms and other businesses are being forced to bear the brunt of the closure, while schools remain open.

“Don’t close businesses based on willy-nilly fear. I think this is all based on a fear factor, and something that’s really easy to roll back on, which is, let’s just go back to [Stage 2] and hope that it flattens the curve. But unfortunately, you can’t do that.”

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