With Phase 2 to set to expire, N.C. businesses excluded from reopening hope to get greenlight

NC bar, gym owners ready to reopen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order of Phase 2 reopening is set to expire Friday, June 26. Many businesses not allowed to reopen under Phase 2 are hoping the next phase allows them to reopen.

Cooper could extend Phase 2, make changes to it, or move into Phase 2.5 or 3.

Doug Warf is President of O2 Fitness. He says many gym owners prepared to reopen under Phase 2 and were surprised when they were not included in the reopening plan.

“We had spoken to someone on the governor’s team as late as Monday and were told we were still in. Then two days later when the press conference occurred and gyms weren’t in, we were surprised.,” Warf said.

O2 Fitness teamed up with Orange Theory, Planet Fitness, and Crunch to form the Fitness Operators for Responsible Reopening (FORR). Together, they created a 14 step, 53-point-plan to give to the Governor and DHHS about how they can reopen safely.

“We’ve worked with epidemiologist to work on the plan to submit to the governor and to DHHS. We worked on how the spacing on the gym floor needs to work, we talked about how airflow is already much greater in the gym than it is anywhere else, and things that keep getting pushed back to us have already been addressed,” Warf said.

He says the plan includes reduce capacity, spacing on the gym floor, separating weights six feet apart, cleaning high-touch areas every 30 minutes, and cleaning zones every two hours. For members, he says their plan requires them to agree to be six feet apart, spray equipment before and after each use, wash hands before and after a workout, and do not go to the gym if you feel sick.

“We know we can be a part of the solution not part of the problem,” Warf said.

Friday, Governor Cooper vetoed a bill that will allow gyms to reopen. In a statement on the Governor’s website, he said the legislation would tie the hands of state leaders in case of emergency.

"Tying the hands of public health officials in times of pandemic is dangerous, especially when case counts and hospitalizations are rising. State and local officials must be able to take swift action during the COVID-19 emergency to prevent a surge of patients from overwhelming hospitals and endangering the lives of North Carolinians. The bill could restrict leaders who need to respond quickly to outbreaks and protect public health and safety."

Gym owners, employees, and others from the community plan to convene on the state capitol Wednesday at 11 a.m. to call for lawmakers to override the governor’s veto.

“I’m concerned that it will become a political issue if it hasn’t already become a political issue and not a safety. Which is not where we want our industry to be situated,” Warf said. “We are the largest privately owned gym in North Carolina, and it has been incredibly tough in our company so I can only imagine those fitness owners who have one or two gyms. And it puts you in a corner where you find a way to open or your forced to look at other options whether that be bankruptcy or closing.”

Music venues are another business that was excluded from Phase 2 reopening plans. The Evening Muse in NoDa usually has live music 7 nights a week. Co-owner Joe Kuhlmann is hopeful they will be allowed to open in some capacity soon.

“It’s been tough, it’s been really hard. So much of what our goal in business is focused on bringing people together,” Kuhlmann said. “We recognize that it’s a unique situation. We see that all the numbers are going up. So, we’re trying to be good stewards of our guests, artists, and staff.”

If the Governor chooses to keep music venues closed come Friday, Kuhlmann says they will look for other ways to generate revenue. For example, he says they are working to get live-streaming equipment into the venue so they can offer concerts virtually.

“We’re just going to have to get more creative,” Kuhlmann said.

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