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Burlington offering permits to gyms, fitness studios, and restaurants to expand operation outdoors

The city created three COVID-19-specific application processes to facilitate the operation of these types of businesses outdoors.

BURLINGTON, N.C. — Week 1 of Phase 2 is almost complete. You've seen spots open up - restaurants, hair salons, even breweries. 

Gyms and indoor fitness centers - still left off that Phase 2 list. Some owners are hiring attorneys to try to reopen, while others try a different approach.

The city of Burlington got creative by streamlining a permitting process that also follows the Governor's Executive Order for Phase 2. The city will offer fitness studios, gyms, and restaurants permits for classes, or services, outside. 

Cariann Stafford, the owner of Downtown Yoga and Barre in Burlington, was anticipating the reopening of her studio in Phase 2. So, when the fitness world learned gyms and the like were removed from the list, she was surprised. 

"I was very shocked. I'm also a massage therapist, and I didn't think that that was going to be covered in the second phase so all of my energy was directed at getting my studio ready," she explained. 

Like so many, she's had to make do during the pandemic. She's live-streamed nearly 20 classes for her students a week. But now, Stafford is looking for a different solution: setting up a class in a public, outdoor space. 

"For my business, I plan to utilize if approved, the lawn of the municipal building, which is on the corner of Lexington and Davis Street," she said, "I feel like this is offering them a safe space. They know the class sizes are going to be small."

Stafford submitted her plan to the city, applying for one of three new coronavirus-related permits. This idea, according to Economic Development Director Peter Bishop, is something they've been working on since late April. 

"From a staff level, we’ve been trying to keep our eyes peeled for ways that we could be flexible during COVID," he said, "What we are looking to do with fitness - is giving them that seat, or that opportunity to serve the customer in the same way that a restaurant can, and get back some of the capacity that they’re missing, recognizing that a full gym cannot take place inside."

Fitness centers can apply to hold outdoor classes, and restaurants can apply to use public property, like sidewalks, for additional seating. 

By utilizing this outdoor space, the city hopes to keep businesses afloat in a time of social distancing. 

You can find out more about how to apply for these permits by clicking here.

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