‘Boris put pubs before fitness’: Gym bosses’ disbelief at order to stay shut

Brad Williams, a personal trainer. Pic; Archant

Brad Williams, a personal trainer. Pic; Archant - Credit: Archant

Gym bosses in Norfolk slammed the government’s decision to keep them closed – but are flexing their muscles to get a U-turn.

Jason Elves, general manager, PureGym and Matt Culliton. Pic: Archant

Jason Elves, general manager, PureGym and Matt Culliton. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

The prime minister stunned owners of gyms and leisure centres when he reopened many businesses including pubs and restaurants but not gyms unless they operate outdoors. Public swimming pools, spas and saunas are also unable to open. Center Parcs has to keep its subtropical swimming pool and spa closed, for example.But the gym industry refuses to take it lying down – with bosses organising a national petition to see them reopen which has attained almost 120,000 signatures.

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Meanwhile Duncan Bannatyne, Dragon’s Den entrepreneur and owner of the Bannatyne gym chain, with two venues in Norwich, one in Lowestoft and another in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk is lobbying local MPs to back the reopening.

PureGym manager Jason Elves, in charge of gyms across Norwich with the firm now owning three in the city and one in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said he was hugely disappointed. But after being unfurloughed last week, he is confident that they will be allowed to reopen soon.

Pure brought Mr Elves back to work to start getting gyms ready for reopening. He told this newspaper almost half of the cardio equipment such as treadmills were being removed to allow social distancing and new ‘train safe’ areas created for people to work out away from others. Although details are still being finalised, he said he thought numbers into the gym would be capped and a booking system would need to operate.

“I think we are all hugely disappointed not to reopen, it is a shame as the government has put pubs before fitness. I come from Norwich, it was fantastic to open up the gyms and we aren’t going anywhere, we are working as hard as we can so we can reopen as soon as we are allowed to.”

Brad Williams, a personal trainer who runs Gym 121 at the Royal Norwich golf course as well as Club 100 health clubs in Norwich and London, said he didn’t think outdoor gyms would be much safer. He specialises in dealing with sports inuries so it wasn’t suited to him. Since lockdown, he has been unable to work and did not qualify for any government grant aid. “I went overnight to zero, the membership had to cease and we just had to shut down. But I do welcome the fact it will make people clean down gym equipment more.”