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Wednesday , 28 July 2021

Wheel Fit bows to pressure from AHS

One local fitness club has closed and another has pivoted to outdoor classes following an announcement last week that they would stay open in defiance of health restrictions announced by the province April 6.

Wheel Fit Co. is an indoor cycling club with franchise locations in Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and St. Paul. Company founder and owner of the Cold Lake location Danika Chevalier said her conversations with the health inspector from Alberta Health Services were respectful, but “I was told that there were some very, very hefty fines that are going to be coming my way and an order of closure so I just didn’t want to risk that order of closure extending beyond any potential time to reopen.”

She said she thought about fighting the fines, but as the mother of a 10-month old boy she also has to take him in to consideration when she’s making decisions.

“I was kind of hoping it was going to take maybe another week or two before they were going to put that kind of pressure on,” said Chevalier.

Despite closing down again less than a week after stating they would continue to hold spin classes, Chevalier said she feels her voice and message were heard.

“Kenney announced some more funding yesterday so  I like to think that’s from the noise that’s been made from the business owners that are continuing to remain open,” said Chevalier.

An additional $350 million dollars in grants for small and medium sized businesses was announced by the province on April 13. Under the program, businesses impacted by public health orders can apply for up to $10,000 to cover COVID-19 costs including personal protective equipment, rent, employee wages, and inventory replacement as well as costs related to shifting their business online as much as possible. Chevalier said she will definitely be applying for the grant.

Alex Piquette owns the St. Paul location. She continued to hold classes for four days after the restrictions were announced. Piquette said she plans to take her classes outdoors to a gazebo in St. Vincent.

“It’s going to take a little bit more effort and time for me, setting them up and taking them down. But I’ll be storing them so they won’t be going too far,” said Piquette.

Her first outdoor class is planned for 8 p.m. on April 16. She said she hopes moving the class to St. Vincent will allow people from the Mallaig and Glendon areas who may not have been able to come all the way to St. Paul to come out and that her St. Paul clients will still be willing to make the drive.

“There’s a playground there so if moms have to come with kids then that’s an option and there’s picnic tables and stuff so they can make afternoon of it or an evening,” said Piquette.

Like Chevalier, Piquette said her conversations with the health inspector were respectful.

“I asked what can happen if I don’t comply. And what they said is, ‘If you don’t comply. We don’t want to have to go this route, but charges can be laid and what happened to the church could happen to you.’”

Alberta Health Services erected a fence around Grace Life Church west of Edmonton on April 7 after months of over capacity worship services and disregard for health measures. The lack of enforcement since the initial closure order Jan. 29 has been cited as a possible reason for increasing disobedience from the business community.

Asked if she had any plans to pivot to an outdoor model like Piquette, Chevalier said she’s waiting to see how things go for Piquette.

“I’m pretty tapped and I feel like I’ve pivoted five to 10 times already in the last year. I just don’t know what else I have left at this moment. We’ve been given no direction as to how long this is going to last either so I’m just giving it a few days for the dust to settle and then taking it from there,” said Chevalier.

She said she wants the community to know how thankful she is for their support over the last week.

“It was beyond anything that I ever imagined, and the supports that were shown especially in the week that we were defying the public health orders definitely contributed to us being able to float until our next re-opening, so just a heartfelt thank you for supporting us,” said Chevalier.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.