’We’re going to go under’: Gym owners concerned as they wait to reopen

’We’re going to go under’: Gym owners concerned as they wait to reopen

HANOVER, Va. (WWBT)- Usually, Above the Bar Gymnastics in Hanover is buzzing with activity, as gymnasts of all ages and abilities work to improve their skills. But ever since closing its doors on March 13, it’s been another locally owned small business fighting to survive.

"It's a mom and pop business," said Terry Popescu. "We've built this for the last seven to eight years.

Terry and her husband, Viorel, own Above the Bar. Viorel is a former Romanian gymnast, and he and his wife opened the gym in 2013, before relocating it to a new facility in April of last year. After Governor Ralph Northam’s May 1 COVID-19 briefing, the Popescus were under the impression that they would get the green light to reopen as part of Phase One of the governor’s plan. Last Friday, however, they learned that, with the exception of limited outdoor activity, gyms and fitness centers would be forced to remain closed.

"We're happy to follow whatever the rules are, but we need to know what they are and what our timeline is so that we're able to open and keep our families safe and our employees safe and to keep all of us employed going forward," Terry noted.

"The information is still confusing," added Viorel, "almost like to the day that it first started, as in it's not very clear...what are you supposed to do?"

Virginia Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Angela Navarro released the following statement to NBC12 regarding why the state government opted to keep gyms and fitness centers closed while other businesses are being permitted to re-open:

"Phase I is the phase of significant mitigation. We had many discussions around exercise and fitness facilities. The public health team advised that when individuals are exercising, their respiratory droplets are likely to travel farther than when sitting or standing. It is also more difficult for an individual who is exercising to wear a face mask as mitigation than it is in other settings like personal care and personal grooming."

In the meantime, like so many businesses across the country, customer flow is at a halt, but the bills continue to come in, as has been the case for nearly two months.

"We're going to go under because you're telling me we're not allowed to (open) by law, even though we're trying to do the right thing ourselves," said Viorel. "There was no law when I closed. I closed because I chose to do the right thing."

Luckily, Above the Bar did receive help from the Paycheck Protection Program in order to continue paying its employees. The owners have also seen a handful of families step up and continue paying their tuition, despite the closure.

"Parents came to us and said 'how can we help you? Can you just go ahead and charge me my tuition for this month?' It was not one parent. It was several parents," an emotional Terry said.

In the end, the Popescus realize that they may have to rebuild, but to them, it will all be worth it."It feels like we’re back to day one, but that’s OK. We’re willing to work that hard and to do the things that it takes to get that high five and the hug from the kids back."

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