East Hampton Town Temporarily Relaxes Code to Help Fitness Businesses

SoulCycle's outpost in Montauk is among the many fitness studios that have remained closed this summer.

East Hampton Town officials made a move Friday to support fitness and exercise studios that still are not able to open their doors since the phased COVID-19 reopening.

Gyms and fitness studios have not been allowed to reopen, even when Long Island hit Phase 4 on July 8, and it remains unclear when they will get the green light from the state. While many of sought outdoor alternatives, a new temporary provision will allow them to legally hold outdoor exercise classes on a separate commercial property within East Hampton Town, with the owner’s permission.

In Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc’s executive order, signed Friday, the town is relaxing a portion of the town code to allow already existing fitness businesses to apply for a permit to hold offsite outdoor classes. Social distancing must still take place and the use of masks when people cannot be six feet apart, and there is a restriction on class sizes.

The permit application, which comes with no fee, is available online. The permit will expire on November 1.

The supervisor said the measure is meant to help businesses suffering financially as a result of COVID-19. “Many of our local businesses have been hard-hit by COVID-19 related shutdowns,” Van Scoyoc said in a statement. “While some economic sectors have been able to reopen and begin rebuilding, the fitness sector poses special health safety concerns and challenges. I will continue to work with businesses to help get our community back to work.”

Outdoor activities are also safer than indoor, he said. Health experts have said that indoor workouts provide a high risk for the spread of COVID-19 due to higher densities, the increased breathing rate that comes with working out, and common touch areas.

In a previous executive order, the supervisor allowed for yoga and pilates studios to hold socially-distanced classes on their own premises outdoors. Since not all fitness businesses have outdoor spaces for classes, the new executive order takes into account arrangements owners are making with commercial property owners to use a different site. Both parties have to fill out sections of the permit application.

The permit application notes that the outdoor setup for classes must be in delineated and have barriers to vehicular parking and traffic, like bollards or substantial planter boxes. The outdoor accommodation areas cannot be within 100 feet of a residence, and can only be used between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Tents with open sides are allowed, as long as they meet code and are approved, via a separate application through the town fire marshal’s office.

Meanwhile, hundreds of gym and fitness studio owners across the state, including on the East End, have joined a class-action lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo for not allowing them to reopen yet.

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