Photo by Sammy Neustadt

By Ashley Napier

The recent reclosure of fitness centers statewide has forced local fitness fanatics to get creative and move classes outdoors during the summer months to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.

Just as quickly as the state began to move forward with opening businesses and easing restrictions, Gov. Gavin Newsom reversed his decision on July 13, ordering the immediate closure of bars, beauty salons and indoor fitness centers.

Local CYCLEBAR franchise owner, Steph Sklar-Mulcahy said the reversal was “pretty devastating” since she spent lots of time and money to make her Santa Monica and Culver City studios COVID-compliant.

“We started taking a lot of measures inside the studio to make some upgrades and make sure that we were prepared for when people were ready to return.” Sklar-Mulcahy said.

Those measures included having instructors sit behind plexiglass partitions wearing masks, face shields, gloves and long sleeves, and all equipment was thoroughly wiped down and sanitized after use. Sklar-Mulcahy also installed a state of the art Reme Halo Air purifier that kills 99 percent of viruses that travel through the air and on surfaces, and opted to shorten classes from 60 minutes down to a half-hour. “We basically turned our studio into a one-touch studio,” the CYCLEBAR owner said.

Despite the extensive measures she took though, class enrollment still faltered after restrictions were lifted. Sklar-Mulcahy estimated her Culver City Studio generated about 1600 “riders,” as she calls her clients, and 500 members before the March shutdown. But after returning from lockdown, her membership decreased to 300 with very few new signups.

Her two-month-old Santa Monica location was hit hardest, she said. “Going from sold-out classes to only filling half the bikes was really hard.”

Once news broke that Newsom reversed his decision, Sklar-Mulcahy said she needed to keep her business alive and knew that her clientele wanted to return to a safe environment. The former television producer of 20 years put her production talents to work and said “let’s do this,” before deciding to bring her service outside the same day. Sklar-Mulcahy was able to mobilize her sound system, teach her employees how to use it, set the stationary bikes outside — and by 5:30 p.m., both of her franchise locations were fully equipped to teach classes outdoors.

The quick-thinking proved to be a hit.

“We started seeing members that had canceled are actually reinstating their memberships” according to Sklar-Mulcahy, who aded, “We’re selling out classes, which we had not been doing at all since we reopened.”

Sklar-Mulcahy said she is overwhelmed by the positive response from the community but she is ready to move operations indoors once it is safe to do so.

For now, though, Sklar-Mulcahy intends to continue managing both locations, which are located at 1221 2nd St., Suite 100 in Santa Monica, or in Culver City at 4130 Sepulveda Blvd., Unit C.