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Local gym and fitness center owners anxious to re-open


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – As businesses like barbershops and hair salons have been given the green light to reopen in Kern County, owners of other businesses that remain closed grow anxious. 

Most gyms and fitness centers have been closed for over two months. According to the governor’s four-phase plan to reopen the state, they are part of phase three. And as of now, there is no timeline for when we might get there, leaving some in the fitness business feeling the financial weight of these COVID restrictions.

“With each day we’re seeing this business that we made trying to degrade and we’re just ready to reopen safely,” said Kristi Windtberg, co-owner of LVL Fitness.

“We have a had a 70 percent drop of income due to most memberships going on hold,” said Casey Babcock, manager at Back 2 Back Sports Complex.

Gym owners across the county grow impatient as they await the state’s “OK” to reopen their doors.

“We’ve been prepping to reopen for months and we feel very confident about the risk level coming in here,” said Windtberg.

Windtberg says she’s made the changes necessary to provide a safe environment for her members to come back to. 

“We’re going to eliminate the common areas,” said Windtberg. “People are not going to be checking themselves in anymore, the teacher will do it for you. The doors are going to be locked until five minutes before class. So [we’ll be] reducing all the touch points.”

At  Back 2 Back Sports Complex changes have also been made.

“We will be closing six times a week, shortening our hour,” said Babcock. “Cutting group classes, just doing open gym when we start out and keeping capacity at 60.”

Both fitness centers say they are ready and anxious to open their doors, but the state hasn’t given the “OK” yet.

“What are we supposed to do?” said Mark Pacheco, owner of Strenght and Health Gym. “Just sit here and starve to death? Just sit here and dry up until they’re good and ready until they can make up their minds on to what we should do. Nobody can live under these conditions. They’re taking this lightly as if everything will be okay. We’re talking about livelihoods. people’s blood, sweat and tears.”

Pacheco felt the heat when he was forced to shut down in April, but he went about things a little differently.

“I worked very hard to build up this place for the last 8 years and I wasn’t about to let that happen,” said Pacheco.

Pacheco stayed re-open a few days later despite state guidelines.

“I kept the doors closed for a period of time, but slowly I began ramping up,” said Pacheco. “I need to survive, I have a necessity and people may demonize me for that, but I think it was a good decision.”

His decision didn’t come without consequence.  Pacheco’s business was cited by the public health department, still, he remained open and says he is working with legal council to appeal the citation.

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