CATHEDRAL CITY — Despite a “Closed” sign on the front door of Anytime Fitness and numerous parking spaces blocked with yellow tape, workout enthusiasts continued to frequent the facility, which is located in the Canyon Plaza Shopping Center.
As Uken Report started to photograph a patron going into the allegedly closed gym, a gentleman, who identified himself as a trainer at the gym, got out of a car parked near the fitness club to inquire about the nature of our visit.
We told him.
“We will be closing tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 14),” he said. “We got a letter from the city. None of the complaints come from our members. They don’t mind.”
That appears not to be true.
Lee Jason Friend, posted on Facebook to say, “The gym is staying open so they can continue to charge their members. I am still one of their members due to contract obligations, so I’m still being charged. I will be notifying the city if they do not close this gym, per the state mandate, which is allowing the gym to charge me I will file a lawsuit against the city.”
For about a week, some residents have taken to Facebook to complain about the business – and what they call a do-nothing City Council and a resounding lack of leadership. One of the men leading the Facebook campaign is Bill Holzhauer, a Cathedral City and resident activist. Yasmin Espinoza has also been vocal.
Their concern is about the spread of COVID-19 in the city and what they see is a blatant disregard for a state order.
On Thursday, Holzhauer said “This whole council must be removed. The lack of Humanity displayed by them is not only deplorable but in direct violation of thier (sic) oath of office therefore they MUST resign.”
Complaints or not, Holzhauer said the City Council is not taking state orders seriously.
On July 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a broad set of closures to stem surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. He banned bars and inside restaurant dining throughout California, and ordered indoor religious services, gyms and hair and nail salons again off-limits in most of the state,
The order was part of the state’s strategy to control the spread of the virus by focusing on limiting indoor activities to reflect public health officials’ evolving understanding of how the virus spreads.
Holzhauer said there has been no enforcement of the rules for businesses that have never closed and those who have a blatant disregard for public safety.
Lynnie O’Neill, a Cathedral City resident, posted on Facebook on Thursday to say, “Inaction is their trademark now,” referring to members of the City Council.
Becki Sameroff Robinson of Cathedral City said the naysayers and those complaining are devotees of Alan Carvalho, who is seeking a seat on the City Council in the Nov. 3 election.
But who is ultimately responsible for enforcing the rules? And is the hostility aimed at the City Council warranted?
“City Council only provides policy for a city,” Communications Manager Christopher Parman told Uken Report. “Enforcement of laws (federal, state, county, and city) are handled by city staff such as our police officers and code enforcement. Some laws though might be under the jurisdiction of a higher-level agency like the ABC or County Health Department, etc.”
Mayor John Aguilar told Uken Report he did some checking and the city did in fact reach out to the fitness club’s ownership to remind them of the statewide order to close indoor gyms. They responded and indicated that would take steps to comply.
The facility’s windows are covered and they have installed caution tape blocking off nearby parking spaces which suggests that they are closed, Aguilar said.
“Nonetheless, city enforcement staff will definitely continue to monitor the situation and take any necessary enforcement action, as we would with any other businesses who are out of compliance, and that we are made aware of. (Action) could include fines and ultimate revocation of their business license if they continue to put the public at risk by violating the state, county, or city Emergency Orders.”
“I also have to say that I am completely sympathetic to all businesses that are struggling during this awful pandemic and understand, as a business owner myself, how challenging this time is and the difficult decisions that need to be made on a daily basis to manage a business which is struggling,” Aguilar said. “But in the end, until we can get this virus at a level which is manageable and not resulting in the increases in cases that we continue to experience, we all have to make sacrifices so that we can persevere and come out of this crisis sooner rather than later.”
Aguilar added that the overwhelming majority of Cathedral City businesses and residents are complying with health orders and are to be commended for staying vigilant and following the health protocols which will keep everyone safe.
Councilmember Rita Lamb, who is running for re-election on Nov. 3, did not respond to a request for comment.
Councilmember Mark Carnevale told Uken Report, “If the gym is open for business then code compliance should contact them and take appropriate action. I know for a fact restaurants and salons have been visited by code compliance and our Police Department.”
As for doing nothing, Carnevale said the City Council meets regularly and discusses the Emergency Order given down by the State.
“The mayor sends out blasts,” Carnevale said. “Councilman (Ernesto) Gutierrez has put out a Covid-19 video warning in Spanish. Parman gives updates on a weekly, almost daily manner.”
- Closed Sign: Cindy Uken
- Caution tapes off some parking places near Anytime Fitness: Cindy Uken
- Anytime Fitness: Cindy Uken