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St. Paul Considers Changing Health Club Ordinance

ST. PAUL, MN -- The city of St. Paul, MN, is taking steps to change its ordinance that prohibits health clubs, such as 24-hour key-card franchises Anytime Fitness and Snap Fitness, from operating unsupervised, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Proposed ordinance amendments are making their way through the St. Paul City Council, and a public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1. The city council could vote on the proposed amendments immediately after the public hearing, says Anytime Fitness corporate spokesperson Mark Daly. If the amendments are passed, the new ordinance would go into effect within 30 days, says Daly, who adds that five of the seven members of the city council support the changes.

Ironically, one of the council members in favor of the changes is Dave Thune, who had been a staunch supporter of the ordinance. Thune has in the past stressed the intent of the ordinance, which was put in place in 1989 to crack down on prostitution rings. One of the conditions of the proposed ordinance is a clause that says a club’s license to operate could be revoked if there is a bust for prostitution activity on the premises, the newspaper reports.

The more relevant ordinance amendments state that clubs must be on the ground level of commercial buildings, have surveillance systems and provide at least one automatic electronic defibrillator (AED), according to the Star Tribune. Anytime Fitness and Snap Fitness, both based in Minnesota, have surveillance cameras, panic buttons and provide emergency necklaces. Some, not all, Anytime Fitness and Snap Fitness clubs have AEDs, which are not required in health clubs in the state of Minnesota.

“We are very pleased that the council sees the merits of convenient and affordable fitness clubs,” Daly tells Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro. “We go to great lengths to make sure that our members are comfortable and safe in our clubs, especially during non-staffed hours.”

There are three Anytime Fitness clubs in St. Paul. Two of the clubs were fined $500 each in December 2007 for violating the city ordinance. An administrative law judge upheld the fines in April.

Currently, the three St. Paul Anytime Fitness clubs operate from about 5 a.m. to midnight, says Daly, who adds that most of the 830 Anytime Fitness clubs nationwide are staffed between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Anytime Fitness plans to add as many as three new clubs in St. Paul if the amendments are passed, Daly says.

Ben Cowan has been monitoring the events of the city council in St. Paul. Cowan owns the rights to three Snap Fitness clubs in St. Paul, but he has been waiting for a change in the ordinance before opening the clubs.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Cowan tells the Star Tribune.

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