Two new coronavirus testing locations are scheduled to open in Pensacola over the next few days.
To provide our community with important public safety information, the Pensacola News Journal is making stories related to the coronavirus free to read. To support important local journalism like this, please consider becoming a digital subscriber.
While Pensacola businesses such as gyms, barbershops and spas have not been ordered to shut down amid the continued threat of the coronavirus, owners in those industries are struggling to find a balance between safety and their own need to earn a living.
State and local official officials have handed down orders for certain industries, closing bars and nightclubs throughout the state for at least 30 days, while limiting capacities at restaurants to 50%. On Thursday, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson announced further limits for restaurants in the city, restricting them to carry-out and delivery only beginning Monday for he next two weeks.
Robinson’s order extended to bowling alleys, concert houses, movie theaters and entertainment venues.
Other businesses without specific directives are left to open or close on their own volition. Simon Property Group announced the closure of all of its malls nationwide, including Pensacola’s Cordova Mall, on Wednesday. The day before, AMC Theatres announced the closure of all of its movie theaters for up to 12 weeks. Both announcements were prior to Robinson’s announcement.
Owners of the gray-area businesses, like fitness centers and salons, that are remaining open say they are taking every precaution possible to keep their employees and their customers safe.
Traditional gyms generally staying open, most fitness centers opting to close
Planet Fitness, one of the most popular U.S. chain gyms, has temporarily closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak. But smaller, traditional weightlifting-based gym chains across Pensacola — like Anytime Fitness and World Gym — have remained open.
World Gym Pensacola owner Ed Weihenmayer said he and his staff have gone above and beyond to make sure workout equipment is relentlessly cleaned with Lucasol, a hospital-grade disinfectant.
“The couple people that are working are walking around spraying the doors, spraying Lucasol on everything,” Weihenmayer said. “We have two different sections in our gym so we’re really monitoring. If there’s more than eight people on either side, we’re kind of like, ‘What are you doing? This side is full right now.’ Everyone’s going along with it, no one’s being contrary about it.”
Weihenmayer has offered all World Gym members three free wellness sessions at Salt Athletics, a World Gym partner business that operates from inside of the gym’s 7166 N. Ninth Ave. location. Salt is inhaled during red light therapy and halo therapy from inside closed chambers during Salt Athletics sessions.
The intent is to improve one’s respiratory system while strengthening the immune system, which Weihenmayer thinks is extremely beneficial, especially given the current climate. Non-World Gym members are welcome to stop by and take part in one free session.
School districts deal with the virus: How will Escambia and Santa Rosa schools handle mass disruptions to the education system?
‘This is a tough one’: Pensacola businesses scramble during coronavirus outbreak
COVID-19 testing sites on the way: Two new coronavirus testing sites coming to Pensacola in next week
The threat of the virus has caused volume to dip at both Weihenmayer’s Pensacola and Cantonment World Gym locations, he said, but his members are still sticking by him.
“We have had zero cancellations,” he said. “I think people are thinking, ‘I love the gym, I’m not canceling, things will all be normal soon.’ Normally on a regular week we would have had 10 cancellations by now. It’s kind of bizarre.”
Regymen Fitness at 5007 N. Davis Highway is one of the local fitness centers to close their gym and shift their focus to online workout sessions for members.
Pensacola Regymen Fitness owner Leah Seacrest said her staff remains ultra-active on social media in promoting at-home workouts. But the essence of Regymen’s style of exercise is lost without group engagement, making her decision to close a straightforward one.
“Obviously we do mostly group exercises,” Seacrest said. “So we did our part for a few days thinking we’ll just run small groups and do social distancing, but I started to feel that the right thing was not to promote gatherings in groups at all.”
Seacrest is hoping to re-open by the end of March, but recognizes that’s looking less likely by the day. She has frozen all memberships for the duration of the pandemic.
Pure Barre, another group-based fitness center located in downtown Pensacola, announced its closure Wednesday on Facebook. Owner Catalina Lehman unlocked access to free, online, on-demand workouts for the next two months. Pure Barre will also be livestreaming classes daily.
Barbershop in East Hill closes, others await their fate
East Hill Barbershop owner Jason Taylor made the bittersweet decision to indefinitely close his business Wednesday.
“It’s impossible to be 6 feet away from people and still be working,” Taylor said Thursday. “We want to do our part in the community to ward off the virus and stop it from spreading in a community we care deeply for.”
University of West Florida Department of Health Lecturer Dr. Wesley Farr said that the close quarters shared by barbers and their customers can leave those customers susceptible to respiratory droplets.
“The concern about barbershops is you have two individuals with their faces about 1 to 3 feet away from each other and that is within the 3-feet circle in which the big droplets from the mouth or nose can fall and make contact,” he said. “Six feet away can leave them open to the smaller droplets.”
Wilfrid’s Barber and Fine Goods on Palafox Place is still cutting hair, but owner Evan Butts said he’s just biding time until what he believes to be an inevitable shut down mandate is handed down by the governor.
Butts said Wilfrid’s is cleaning and sanitizing as much, if not more so, than everyone else, but he admitted he also doesn’t want his staff to stop making money.
“We’re trying to make sure employees can get as much business as they can until they’re not able to,” Butts said Thursday. “We’ve cut down on the amount people we allow on the floor. But in all honesty I don’t expect to be open past this week.”
Butts said some of his customers have expressed concern, but he hasn’t had very many appointments go by the wayside.
“I think people are trying to keep some semblance of normal life while this is going on,” he added. “And I think going to the barbershop is part of that.”
Jake Newby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8538.
Read or Share this story: https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/03/19/pensacola-gyms-barbershops-bowling-alleys-respond-covid-fallout/2873916001/