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Staff out of work, rent to pay: Island gym owner reacts to new B.C. restrictions

B.C. businesses are trying once again to pivot in the face of COVID-19 shutdowns.

Beginning at 11:59 pm tonight (Wednesday), several new restrictions come into effect, with concerts, sports games and theatres reduced to 50 per cent seated capacity.

A maximum of six people per table at restaurants will be implemented, with bars and nightclubs required to close, as well as gyms, fitness centres and dance studios.

In Courtenay, Morgan Klieber, owner of Wild + United Athletics Inc., finds it’s a “pretty challenging” situation for everybody.

“I definitely understand that there’s a lot of thought that goes into the restrictions and how they put them forth,” Klieber tells Vista Radio.

She says another closure is devastating for her business, its staff, and clients.

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That’s because people rely on gyms to deal with mental health, Klieber explains, especially amid the pandemic, with limited access to events and gatherings.

“We’ve heard from a few clients, and they were looking forward to doing some exercising and movement over the holidays,” she says.

“We’re sort of grasping at straws; there’s not much we can do to help them in the way that they would really love to be helped, which is in person and with their friends around.”

Klieber is thinking back to when her business shut down at the onset of the pandemic. Just like then, her staff is once again turning to Zoom and offering virtual fitness classes.

“And today, we’re starting to loan out our equipment in an effort to maintain some memberships, as we still have staff that we employ. We have a team of over ten people that help to coach our classes that are going to be out of work, and we have rent to pay.”

Thinking ahead, Klieber figures things will be more challenging this time around. “I think people are pretty burnt out from doing online stuff,” she adds.

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Officials say the limitations will be in effect until at least Jan. 18, 2022, with business groups now urging provincial governments to increase their aid for small businesses, hard-hit by the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Restaurants Canada says most establishments won’t be eligible for federal assistance.

Even before this latest round of restrictions, the organization finds around 15 per cent of small businesses surveyed said they wouldn’t survive the next six months.

READ MORE: New COVID-19 restrictions: No indoor social events; bars, gyms closed

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