The Bristol gym still operating in coronavirus lockdown

A Bristol gym is managing to stay open and operating despite the coronavirus lockdown, with the backing of police and council covid enforcers.

But local residents living in the same complex as the Torque Gym are regularly complaining to police and council officials about the gym, which is also hiring out space to freelance personal trainers from across the Bristol area.

Police and council officials confirmed they are regularly visiting the Torque Gym, which is based in the former Bristol General Hospital redevelopment at Bathurst Basin, at the harbourside in the city centre.

The gym’s co-owner is former Bristol Bears rugby star and current Bears team manager Nick Fenton-Wells. He told Bristol Live they are working with Public Health England, the police and the council to stay within the covid lockdown rules, and are confident they are doing so.

The gym is normally based at indoor premises within the ground floor of the General Hospital complex.

Since the start of the lockdown on January 4, they have again been given the space on the terrace that fronts onto the Bathurst Basin, which is normally where their neighbouring business, restaurant Paco Tapas, has outdoor tables.

Now, Torque has installed mobile gym equipment, and Mr Fenton-Wells said there is enough space on the 16 metre-long terrace there to allow three personal trainers and their clients to do one-to-one training sessions. The gym also runs virtual sessions with instructors inside on their own, broadcasting to a class of gym-goers in their own homes over Zoom.

Torque and its owners have an active social media profile, and have posted pictures and videos of how their new arrangements work on Instagram since the start of the lockdown on January 4.

“At the start of lockdown, we did go to Public Health England and engage with them about what we wanted to do,” said Mr Fenton-Wells.

“We welcomed them to come along and explain what we’re doing and make sure that it was safe and within the rules, and everybody was happy. We just wanted to make sure that all the right people knew what we were doing.

“From a covid safety point of view, all of the equipment is cleaned thoroughly between sessions, and then it is brought indoors at night and we have a disinfectant fogger that you’re only supposed to need to do every month, but we do it every night to thoroughly clean the equipment,” he added.

“We ensure there’s social distancing between all the trainers and their clients, and we are confident that we are doing all the right things,” he added.

Mr Fenton-Wells said that the police and the council covid officials have visited several times. “We had a meeting with two officials from the council who are their covid enforcement officers, and we explained what we are doing. They came and inspected and suggested a couple of changes, and we’re happy to do that,” he added.

the bristol gym still operating in coronavirus lockdown - The Bristol gym still operating in coronavirus lockdown
Torque Gym’s public posts on Instagram show how they are working outside
(Image: Torque Gym/Instagram)

Mr Fenton-Wells said staying operating in this way was not about the money. “We could be charging the personal trainers who come in a fortune to use this space, but we don’t, and in fact we’re not making a fortune ourselves at all,” he said.

“It’s been a difficult time for everyone, and we’re just trying to make ends meet. It’s not even about the money at the moment, it’s about keeping going, and it’s more about the physical and mental well-being of our gym members,” he added.

With the gym operating in such a public space: a terrace fronting onto the picturesque Bathurst Basin, surrounded by homes, including within the General Hospital complex itself, the presence of people working out has attracted concern and regular complaints from local residents who claim it is breaching covid rules.

What local residents say

One local resident who lives in the Bathurst Basin area said many of her neighbours and other people had complained to the police and council about the set-up at Torque Gym.

The neighbour, who declined to be named, said she had studied the law closely, and believes Torque Gym is ‘in direct violation of the Government guidelines’.

“Every member of the gym staff and patrons are travelling from outside the area to The General for exercise, and by coming here they are putting residents at risk,” she said.

the bristol gym still operating in coronavirus lockdown 1 - The Bristol gym still operating in coronavirus lockdown
Torque Gym’s public posts on Instagram show how they are working outside
(Image: Torque Gym/Instagram)

“Paco Tapas restaurant is not a public outdoor space. At times they have up to eight people training from a small space and therefore cannot follow social distancing guidelines. The staff also continue to use the indoor gym space with up to three people training at one time,” she added.

Torque Gym’s move in February to invite and effectively sub-let the space on the terrace to other personal trainers from gyms across Bristol, prompted a fresh wave of complaints to the authorities. One resident said when she contacted the police and the council she was told they’d had so many complaints about it, that they didn’t need to take the details down again.

“They now have up to six personal trainers working from Paco Tapas. This is extremely concerning, as it brings even more people to the residential area,” she added.

“The council were made aware of Torque Gym continuing to operate whilst Bristol was at the height of the second wave of the pandemic,” she said.

“It’s very disappointing that they have allowed them to continue to operate. This sends a very strong message to Bristol residents and other businesses that have been forced to close during lockdown,” she added.

“It’s clear from the council’s response that they haven’t done any proper investigation. The terrace is not a public space – what’s to stop every personal trainer in Bristol coming down here to train? What’s to stop every gym in Bristol moving their equipment outside their front entrance and running classes from the pavement?” she added.

What the council and police say

Avon and Somerset police have been contacted by residents complaining that the gym is breaking lockdown at least half a dozen times in the past two months, and Bristol City Council have received a similar number of complaints.

The police and the council work together on covid enforcement, and because Torque gym is a business, the council are leading on enforcement.

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said that their covid marshall teams visited the gym, and ruled that under the current regulations, a personal trainer can meet a client on a one-to-one basis in an outdoor public area. The council enforcers investigated the set-up and were satisfied that what was happening in this case was not in breach of these guidelines.

the bristol gym still operating in coronavirus lockdown 2 - The Bristol gym still operating in coronavirus lockdown
Torque Gym’s public posts on Instagram show how they are working outside
(Image: Torque Gym/Instagram)

“We have been in contact with the owners of the gym to advise them of the guidelines and ensure that they are being followed,” he said.

“Where there are reports of businesses not following the latest COVID-19 rules and regulations our team will investigate and respond appropriately, by first offering support, then considering if further action is necessary to ensure that these guidelines are being adhered to.

“Any concerns should be reported by calling 0117 922 2500 or emailing health.safety@bristol.gov.uk, “ he added.

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police said that in the past two weeks alone police officers have visited Torque Gym, on February 19 and 26, in response to complaints from members of the public and local residents.

“We have provided the business owner with words of advice,” he said. “Anyone who thinks there are breaches of covid regulations should contact 101.”

What the law states

The rules specified on the Government’s coronavirus lockdown website for the lockdown from January 4 are clear. All indoor gyms and sports facilities have to close, and that applies also to “outdoor gyms, sports courts, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, archery/driving/shooting ranges and riding centres”.

However, what is allowed is one-to-one personal training sessions in an outdoor public space. Lockdown rules mean that, generally, one person can meet with another person not in their household bubble outdoors as part of their daily exercise for a walk in the park, as long as social distancing rules are followed, and that extends to more professional situations where one person is hiring another for a personal training session, as long as the person having the session is remaining in their local area.

“Personal training can continue if participants are from the same household or support bubble,” the Government’s covid lockdown website states. “It can also continue if it is one-on-one, although this should only take place in a public outdoor place, and not in someone’s private home or garden. Public outdoor places include: parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests; public and botanical gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them); the grounds of a heritage site and public playgrounds.”

Back to: The Traffic SEOWebsite SEONews and BLOGBristol News

You may also like...