A Kamloops yoga studio owner, who says she has been “bleeding financially” due to forced closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, is disappointed the city will not provide flexibility to her industry.
Oxygen Yoga & Fitness owner Dina McLeod wants city park permit fees waived to move classes outdoors.
Last week, Coun. Arjun Singh noted indoor fitness facilities like yoga studios have been impacted by provincial health orders and suggested staff look into possible relief, such as waiving park permit fees to provide fitness classes in city parks.
But his suggestion failed to garner support from council colleagues.
The city’s community services director, Byron McCorkell, told KTW a $20 parks use permit is required for use of public park space.
He said it helps the city control parks usage and prevents conflicts.
The decision has left McLeod frustrated.
“It’s like there’s a first-aid kit out of reach and the city just kicked it a little further away,” McLeod told KTW.
McLeod said she loses $5,000 per month on space in Aberdeen Village she currently cannot use, due to a ban on indoor group fitness.
She pays about $8,100 per month on rent ($4,600); loan repayments for renovations in recent years ($2,200) and insurance, utilities and other bills ($1,300).
McLeod said government help is not enough. McLeod receives $3,100 to offset some of the costs — $2,600 in a commercial rent subsidy and $500 in lockdown support. It adds up to $5,000 monthly in the red for a studio space that has seen nary a tree pose for some time.
Though she is not allowed to operate in that space until at least May 25, due to pandemic-related health orders banning indoor group fitness classes, McLeod is permitted to hold small, nine-person classes outdoors.
But doing so in city parks carries another expense, with per day city fees at $20. McLeod estimated another $300 to $600 per month for park space, plus insurance.
She is asking for help in the waiving of those fees.
McLeod said she has lost $300,000 in sales since the onset of the pandemic.
“I have legally lost the right to make a living,” she said.
The city has lent a hand to other businesses forced to shutter during the pandemic.
Restaurants and pubs have been ordered to close indoor dining rooms until at least May 25 and the city allocated $350,000 in COVID-19 relief funds for sidewalk extensions to allow establishments to expand their patios.
McLeod said gyms with fitness studios have been able to continue operating under public health guidelines. It is a small number of fitness studios, also including spin studios, that have been fully shuttered.
McLeod knows it would be possible for her to use the park space without paying for a permit, but she wants to follow the rules.
She referenced efforts to help group fitness businesses in other communities such as temporary shelters constructed in Maple Ridge, similar to beer gardens, allowing spin studios to operate outside and lower parks permit fees in Kelowna.