(Editors' Note: Club Industry will update this story as more details come in.)
Update April 28, 2015: The day after riots affected the city of Baltimore, health club operators are adhering to the city's curfew and closing early with no damage reported to any of the fitness facilities of operators contacted by Club Industry.
The downtown Baltimore location of Brick Bodies will remain closed today, according to Vicki Brick, CEO of Brick Bodies. The company's Belvedere Square location will close at noon. All other Brick Bodies, Lynne Brick Clubs and Planet Fitness locations owned by Lynne and Victor Brick will remain open, but the company will monitor the situation throughout the day.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced a week-long, city-wide curfew starting tonight in an effort to help end the riots and looting, which occurred as people protested the death of Freddie Gray, a man who died while in the custody of Baltimore police last week. The curfew begins at 10 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m. During that time, people may not be out on the road unless it is work-related or a medical emergency.
The Merritt Athletic Club in downtown Baltimore was near some of the protests and rioting last night, says Donyel Cerceo, marketing director for Merritt. It closed at 7 p.m. yesterday due to a fire at a nearby building, but no incidents occurred at the club, she says. Merritt has nine locations, three of which are in the city of Baltimore. Beginning tonight through the length of the week-long curfew, all of its nine clubs, even those not in the city, will close at 8 p.m. The Buckingham, Cranbrook and Owings Mills locations, which are express clubs, will reopen at 8 a.m. tomorrow, and all other clubs will open at 5 a.m. tomorrow.
"Our primary concern is the safety of our members and employees, so we will continue to adhere to the imposed curfew and close at 8 p.m. until further notice," read a club statement on Facebook. "Thank you for your understanding."
Cerceo says that Merritt has not boarded windows or taken any other precautions against possible property damage or looting at this point.
"Property is property," she said. "Our main concern is our members and employees."
For that reason, management of the company wants to ensure employees and members are home before dark, which is 8 p.m. now, and home before the curfew begins, she says.
Merritt Athletic Club, Brick Bodies and Maryland Athletic Club (see more in original story below) are communicating the hour changes to members through signs in the clubs, emails, website notices and social media posts.
Original story, April 27, 2015: The protests and unrest occurring in Baltimore related to the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody has affected fitness facilities in the area.
Tim Rhode, co-owner of Maryland Athletic Clubs (MAC), Timonium, MD, closed his Harbor East Club in Baltimore's Inner Harbor area at 7:30 p.m. today (3 ½ hours early) because the landlord decided to lock down the neighborhood early to reduce traffic and bring in additional security, Rhode tells Club Industry in an email. As of tonight, the club, which is on the second floor of the building, had not sustained damage.
"Initial rioting has been mostly on the West Side of Baltimore, but with the sun down, we’re not sure where the next outbreak may occur," Rhode says. "City leaders and clergy are out in force, joining police, and now National Guard to help deter any unchecked spread of violence."
Because Baltimore's mayor has implemented a one-week curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the opening time for MAC clubs will be delayed by about 30 to 60 minutes and closing time will occur one hour earlier, Rhode says.
"Hopefully we’ll be able to do business during the day," he says. "No need as of yet to close up completely."
The MAC is not the only facility affected. The Jewish Community Center of Baltimore noted on its website that it was closing at 8 p.m. today.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore, issued a shelter in place order at 5:25 p.m., which meant that all students should remain inside buildings. The university has a University Recreation and Fitness center on campus that typically is open until 10:30 p.m. during the week, according to the center's website, but a person who works at the rec center said the center closed at 2 p.m. and all students went home.
Many of the Brick Bodies and Lynne Brick Clubs are located in the Baltimore area. Vicki Brick, CEO of Brick Bodies and daughter of owners Lynne and Victor Brick, told Club Industry that the downtown Brick Bodies club closed at 5 p.m., the Lynne Brick's Belvedere Square club (a women-only facility) closed at 7:30 p.m. and the Padonia Brick Bodies club, normally a 24-hour club, closed at 11:30 p.m. today. The Bricks also own some Planet Fitness franchises. Their Planet Fitness Cantonville and Planet Fitness Golden Ring clubs both closed at 9 p.m. tonight. Openings will likely be delayed in the morning, but no clubs had sustained damage, Vicki Brick says.
The note on the company's website said: "To ensure the safety of our members and staff, some clubs are closing early. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please check back for updates."
Vicki Brick says, "Police protection was a few blocks away from our Brick Bodies downtown location so we closed the club for precaution but no rioting in immediate proximity of our Brick Bodies downtown location."
She adds: "We closed as a precautionary measure. The closings were primarily to discourage people living in the affected areas from being outside. The clubs themselves were nowhere near any of the violence nor were they endangered in any way. The rioting is confined to a small area. For the most part, the citizens of Baltimore are law-abiding citizens, and we are appalled at the violence and total disregard for property shown by a small group a people. It is disappointing and sad, but we still love our city, our fellow citizens and surrounding areas."
Unrest in a community is something few club operators plan for.
"I heard a comment today that there was no seminar for this at IHRSA," Rhode says. "We have plans and procedures for weather-related issues. Until recently, we did not see an imminent city-wide civil emergency but have good people in our neighborhood to turn to for direction on issues of safety and security."
The unrest occurred on the day of Gray's funeral. Gray died last week while in the custody of Baltimore police. The cause of his death is still being investigated.