Some businesses in Somerville, Massachusetts are opening their doors for the first time in some six months Tuesday, as the city cautiously enters Phase 3 of reopening weeks after the rest of the state.
Businesses like martial arts studios, gyms, yoga and dance centers, as well as arts and music classes, are among those able to reopen in what city officials have dubbed "Phase 3.1" of its reopening plan.
Under the plan, however, movie theaters, outdoor theaters and performance venues, museums and historical sites and indoor recreational facilities will remain closed.
The move comes after Somerville delayed entering Phase 3 despite the vast majority of the state having done so weeks ago, saying its 7-day and 14-day case averages were still too high.
“It was challenging to transition from coming in every day, seeing people face to face, and then having to lose that connection,” said Sasha Craine, owner and instructor at Oom Yung Doe.
The martial arts school went online when the pandemic shutdown began.
“We were lucky in that we were able to set up an at-home studio,” said Craine. “So we’re shooting out of our basement, out of our living room.”
Still, membership dropped almost 50 percent, and the owners have closed three of their five studios around metro Boston.
And while most of the state entered Phase 3 at the beginning of July, Somerville has moved at a slower pace and delayed Phase 3 multiple times.
Hitting the gym after work is now a reality in Somerville, and while they're thrilled to be back open, they say they have a lot to make up for after being shut down longer than gyms anywhere else in the state.
"To be able to open this place back up to our members is really exciting," said Jeff Butterworth with RX Strength Training.
On day one of reopening, and even with the constant sanitizing, it's a good feeling at places like RX Strength Training. No amount of conditioning could have prepared them to be closed two months longer than the rest of the state.
While Somerville chose to move at a much slower pace, Phase 3 business owners say they're the ones who paid the pirce.
"We're very happy to be open now. Our business had dwindled down to 30 percent and is now picking back up," the owners said.
At Be In Union Yoga, they're still waiting for their health and safety plan to be approved so they can open.
"We are hanging on," the owners said.
Back in July, they considered filing legal action against the city after all of the delays. Even though they hope to reopen later this week, the restrictions and capacity limitations won't make it easy.
"You can have seven students in a class normally. In fall, we have three, four times that amount. Trying to figure out how we stay sustainable in this new world," said co-owner Jaclyn Kryzak.
She's hopeful the city will help the small businesses that suffered. Mayor Curtatone says that's the plan.
"We want to help them sustain until we get to the other side of his thing," he said.
But he defended his decision to move cautiously and says he won't hesitate to roll back if Somerville starts to see an uptick.
"We can't jeopardize public health just to reopen one sector of our economy," he said.
That's why gym owners say they have no choice but to be flexible.
"We're just hoping everyone can hold on and have them time to open up very soon."
During Phase 3.1, all visitors to fitness facilities must wear face coverings and sign up in advance for group classes and open gyms. All facilities much meet COVID-19 guidelines from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers.
Motion picture, television and streaming productions will also be allowed to resume. Employees and participants mus wear face masks, and groups must be limited to 10.
Participants at martial arts and dance facilities must wear masks, and gatherings at those places will be limited to 10 people.
Non-athletic instructional classes will be limited to 10 people per facility and masks will be required.
All businesses must meet all requirements laid out by the state, as well as city requirements. This will require submitting a COVID-19 control plan template to the city, as well as a facility-specific health and safety plan and layout plan.
While some businesses can finally reopen Tuesday, it won’t be easy financially given restrictions like capacity limitations.
“If you have over a hundred students and you can only have realistically probably about eight or less people in at a time it poses its own challenges,” said Alex Goode, an owner and instructor at Oom Yung Doe.
City inspectors will be visiting businesses to make sure they’re complying with coronavirus guidelines. Any complaints from customers will be investigated.
Other indoor facilities in Somerville like museums and movie theaters will remain closed for the time being.