Privately-owned San Francisco gyms have been closed to the public since shutdowns began in March in response to the global spread of COVID-19, but private gym owners have recently learned that gyms for city employees have been operating for months.
According to documents obtained by Mission Local, gyms for the San Francisco Police Department, the Hall of Justice, and the Medical Examiner’s Office have been open through the summer. The SFPD gyms, they report, have been open since as early as May.
The SFPD released a statement in defense of their continued use of their gyms. Because officers are required to take physical fitness exams every six months and remain in shape, “the SFPD has private gym facilities at all locations throughout the city of San Francisco and they continue to operate in consultation with our Health partners.”
Gyms for the SFPD have been open with strict safety guidelines, including mandatory masks, wiping down machines before and after every use, and encouraging any cardio activity to take place outdoors. Only seven individuals are allowed in the gym at one time.
Mission Local reported that there were 468 gym-users at one SFPD gym location in the month of May alone.
The Hall of Justice gym has been open since July 1st to judges, lawyers, bailiffs, and paralegals.
“It just demonstrates that there seems to be some kind of double standard between what city employees are allowed to do and what the residents of San Francisco are allowed to do,” said Dave Karraker, owner of MX3 Fitness in the Castro.
Karraker is also one of the organizers of the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio coalition, made up of some 70 studios and nearly 700 employees, who have been advocating for the opening of private gyms.
“The hypocrisy of such action by the City is in stark contrast to the announcement from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce (last) Tuesday, stating that 54% of businesses in the City are now closed,” said Karraker. “San Francisco’s entire fitness industry, closed for almost six months, is on the verge of complete collapse.”
Danielle Rabkin, owner of Crossfit Golden Gate, told NBC Bay Area that she has been doing everything she can for her business’ survival during the shutdown. “Even though they’re getting exposed,” she said of the city’s open gyms, “there are no repercussions, no ramifications? It’s shocking.”
In a recent statement, the City’s director of public health, Dr. Grant Colfax, seemed unaware of the city’s open gyms. He called it “a theoretical possibility”, but added that it would be against the advice of health experts.
The San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition submitted a formal legal request on August 14th requesting the reopening of small, privately-owned gyms. On August 25th, the coalition joined with other small businesses at City Hall to protest that they have not yet been allowed to open.
The gyms and other small business leaders feel they have every ability to operate their businesses in a way that would protect the health of their clients, and that the city’s use of gyms (and Senator Pelosi’s recent visit to a hairdresser) demonstrates that there is no reason they have not been given a green light for operations.
“What the city has unwillingly done,” Karraker said, “is created this great study that working out indoors is actually safe. So at this point, we’re just demanding that they allow us to have the same workout privileges for the citizens of San Francisco that the employees of San Francisco have.”