Yoga studio owner calls Washington state's distancing requirements for fitness centers 'arbitrary'

Many people have been waiting to go back to a gym during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it may soon be a lot harder to get inside with new distancing rules. Starting August 10th, the state’s distancing requirements at fitness and training centers will be expanding from six feet to 300 square feet between each person.

Urban Yoga Spa in downtown Seattle has four studios. Under the current Phase 2 guidelines, five people can be in the studio at one time during a class. With the new state requirements, however, space will only allow for two to three people in the studios.

Andrew Hirsch, CEO of the spa, said the distancing increase is arbitrary, and compared the 300 square foot rule to the size of a small house.

“We have to have to have six houses within our studio space to take care of the people that we’re taking care of. It really doesn’t make sense,” said Hirsch.

Larger facilities will be required to limit occupancy to 25 percent of the maximum capacity determined by the fire code. Patrons will also have to wear a mask at all times, except during strenuous exercises. The state has a list of all the new requirements for fitness and training centers posted to its website.

Hirsch said not only will the extra distance cut the number of people allowed in all their studios, but it also cuts the amount of money coming in.

“It’s really tough to make the economics work or rent, salary, teacher’s pay. We want to help people survive and that’s really going to be tough,” said Hirsch.

It will be tougher for other fitness and training centers that don’t have as much space or studios as Hirsch does. He joins more than 10,000 members in the fitness community signing an online petition. They are asking state leaders to change the new mandate.

“We really want to understand where this is coming from. Why is the fitness community solely singled out in the new requirements for both Phase 2 and Phase 3,” said Hirsch. “We really want to have a conversation with our leadership to understand why the fitness industry is being attacked the way they are.”

The CEO and ‘yoggi’ said he supports what the state is doing in reducing coronavirus exposure, but believes the extra required space will be harmful in more ways people might think.

“For those that don’t feel safe right now, we completely understand. But if they want to have a studio to come back to when it’s all safe to come back, we have to change the rules for the folks that want to practice now,” said Hirsch.