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Long Beach gyms, yoga studios left out of Phase 4 reopening

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reopen the economy during the coronavirus pandemic has included guidelines and opening dates for restaurants, retail stores, beaches, parks, museums and art events. But the kinds of places many people treasure as respites from daily life — gyms and yoga studios — remain closed, and their owners say they have no idea when they might reopen.

Laura Shockley, owner of Point Lookout & Wellness, like many others in her industry, said her business has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic began in mid-March. She has been giving yoga classes on the beach in the interim, but her business’s future, she said, is uncertain.

The governor “left us nowhere,” Shockley said. “We’re in limbo right now, with no end in sight.”

Shockley, a lawyer who tired of the corporate life to open a yoga and meditation studio, said Cuomo moved gyms, yoga studios and bowling alleys out of Phase 4 reopening plans, without assigning them dates when they might reopen. She said she finds it difficult to understand how some places, not always the cleanest, are allowed to open, while gyms and yoga studios, which promote health, are shuttered.

Gyms and yoga studios arevery much a part of Long Beach’s culture of exercise as a way to relax and have fun. Shockley said she believes she can hang on to her business, but she said, “I know people who are closing, because how long can you keep an operation going” without a steady income?

Long Beach’s unemployment rose during the pandemic, and the closing of gyms and yoga studios, which employ both full- and part-time workers, has only added to the unemployment rolls.

Oceanride Cycling Studio, a spin studio that has been open seven years in Long Beach, just closed, according to owner Stephanie Horowitz. “Not knowing when we’re going to be able to reopen, it didn’t make sense” to keep paying rent and other costs, Horowitz said. There is no outdoor bicycling because of limited space.

Horowitz is not critical of the governor, however. “I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong,” she said. “I think he’s trying to do what he can to keep us safe, but it’s just all a terrible situation.”

She said her customers expressed regret at the closing. “I was not anticipating the outpouring of love in the community,” Horowitz said.

The Herald reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.

Jess Thurman’s Barrier Island Crossfit, a relatively small gym catering to classes, would have been open for four years this coming fall, but it succumbed to the coronavirus and shut its doors.

“We’ve been closed since March,” Thurman noted. She said her business was set to open July 8, when it was in the Phase 4 reopening plan. But, she said, Cuomo has since announced he would issue a new plan Aug 8. That does not mean, Thurman said, that gyms and yoga studios will be allowed to open that day or any time after, only that the governor would make an announcement.

“We just want some answers,” Thurman said. She said she was unsure if her business would reopen. “We have to get our membership back,” she said. “We have to pay the landlord. It would take three months to get us back to where we were” before the pandemic.

Thurman expressed a concern echoed by many in the industry: It is uncertain how many people would be willing to return to exercise places, which tend to attract large numbers of people.

Point Lookout & Wellness had become more than just a spot to hop in for a yoga class. Shockley said her studio offered classes for people who could not afford them, as well as free classes for nurses who were heavily stressed when hospitals were crowded with Covid-19 cases. She still has meditation classes aboard the Freeport Water Taxi and other events.

“I have taken a significant hit,” Schockley said of her business. “I’m only just keeping my head above water.”