Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.
  • Planet Fitness Improves Air Filtration, PPE For NY Reopening

    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Planet Fitness says it is ready to safely re-open on Monday in New York State.

    “We’re ready to go,” proclaimed James Innocenti, chief operating officer of Planet Fitness Supreme, which owns and operates 70 of the health club chain’s locations in New York, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

    Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that gyms can reopen at 33 percent of its capacity, starting Monday. Local governments are tasked with conducting health inspections before Sept. 2. Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City may not be able to complete inspections until after Labor Day because reopening schools are the Big Apple’s “priority” right now.

    “We really look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio,” said Innocenti who owns all 47 of Planet Fitness’ locations in New York City with his brother, adding he will adhere to State and City guidance to “get open as soon as possible.”

    Innocenti told WCBS 880’s Neil A. Carousso that members will be required to wear masks at all times, per Governor Cuomo’s order. He is also arming all of his employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and PF Supreme will close for deep cleaning overnights.

    “We’ll be able to sanitize every single piece of equipment, bathrooms, etc. every single night,” he said.

    Planet Fitness is also focused on air filtration. Filters are rated by their efficiency in blocking large particles. Minimum efficiency reporting value or MERV filters are rated on a scale of one to 20. Health experts recommend indoor facilities have a MERV-13 filter or higher to block viral particles that can spread through aerosols. Cuomo announced a mandate last month that shopping malls, which have reopened in phase 4 of New York’s reopening, install MERV-11 filters or higher.

    “We listened loud and clear to the Governor,” Innocenti said. “We got those MERV-13’s in all our stores right now.”

    Planet Fitness does not offer individual training or fitness classes, which are up to localities to allow upon inspection.

    “Our gyms are really set up for physical distancing,” the franchisee said.

    Its health clubs are about 20,000 square feet on average. Innocenti hopes members will return while it operates at a third of its capacity, but he understands people’s trepidations over COVID-19 transmission.

    “We encourage people to come in and see what we’re doing and see how safe that we really are,” he said, continuing, “I understand the fear out there for sure, but I think with the protocols that we all put in place and the focus on taking care of our members, and that is our top priority, I think they’re going to see that.”

    Planet Fitness waived membership fees since health clubs were shut down in March. Innocenti says people can pause their memberships until they feel safe returning to the gym.

    “At 33 percent capacity, although that’s challenging for the business, I think it gives the consumer a bit of ease, understanding that there’s not going to be as many people working out at the same time as there typically would be at 100 percent capacity,” he told WCBS 880.

    Planet Fitness launched “Crowd Meter” – a new feature in its app that enables members to check capacities at gyms before visiting.

    “If you log on to the app and you see that the capacity is really high at that given moment, you may not feel comfortable coming in,” Innocenti explained.

    He is optimistic about the future of Planet Fitness – one of the largest health club chains in the U.S. James and his brother Jeff Innocenti, PF Supreme’s chief executive officer, have been in the fitness industry for 25 years. They bought stake of Planet Fitness in 2004.

    “We know how to navigate through difficult times,” James said, citing the 2008 recession. “I think this is just another challenge for us to come out on the other end very strong.”

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