With the provincial government announcing lockdown measures in March, institutions across Ontario were forced to adjust their ways of working. Specifically, fitness clubs that rely on holding large numbers of customers indoors were forced to totally adjust their business models. They are now wondering how to return to the “new normal”. This is the case for Sault-based fitness center The KLUB.
Like many fitness centres, The KLUB has been actively adapting to new situations as the government loosens Coronavirus-related restrictions.
Last week Premier Doug Ford announced that 18 regions, including Algoma, would enter into Phase 3 of the reopening plan. The new regulations now permit meetings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people meeting outside. For fitness clubs, this means that customers will now be able to gather indoors to exercise together.
“I did transition immediately to offer online fitness classes and then outdoor classes once we could,” said Katrina Francella in an interview with SooToday.
The KLUB offers body weight workout classes intended for all levels of experience and abilities.
Francella, known professionally as Koach Katrina, is a personal trainer and youth mentor. “I opened The KLUB with a dream that it be an inclusive safe space for folks to gather for fitness, wellness and special events. It’s meant to be a place where we can work on our mental, physical and social health,” she said.
However, Francella noted that she “saw a major drop in attendance” possibly due to the financial uncertainty of her customers triggered by the pandemic.
“These are especially difficult times so – although movement could help folks manage stress – I understood that their priorities may be shifted right now,” she said.
According to Francella, her business was especially vulnerable because of restrictions since fitness classes require large gatherings of people. “The cap on gatherings affects my ability to host larger events or run larger group fitness groups.”
Therefore, she is looking for alternative sources of funding. She hopes this income will come from provincial or municipal grants, social services funding and/or sponsorships.
Ideally, Francella hopes The KLUB will go back to offering indoor classes in a few months. “I am hopeful by the fall, I’ll be able to open confidently,” said Francella. “However, I can’t do so unless I know that I will receive [financial] help.”
Once or twice a month ,The KLUB hosts a youth group called Rainbow Klub. The club is a social gathering toward queer kids and allies between grades seven and 12, according to its website. It is “safe space for all youth to feel welcome, become educated, and be themselves here in Sault Ste. Marie.”
Rainbow Klub is “a space they know they will receive love, support, a hot meal, friendship and entertainment.”
Francella is in the process of applying for non-profit status and expanding the program by making it daily.
She organizes Rainbow Klub on her own time and funds it out of her own pocket and through sponsorships. However, with the loss in revenue associated with the COVID-19 measures, the youth group is at risk.
“If I am not able to pay for the space through fitness and events revenue, I won’t have a space to continue offering free youth programming: Rainbow Klub,” she said.
Despite its drawbacks, Francella said that this situation is an opportunity to design a plan for any future crises similar to this one. “It gave me the chance to consider if something like this happened again, how could my business survive? How could I continue doing the work I am, with who I am, but continue to get paid?”