How will our local studios survive?

Listening to Lyons Den owner Bethany Lyons talk about the lack of guidance, support and consistency coming from government, I realized I was long overdue for a roundup on where our local studios stand. Among small businesses, they have been among the hardest — if not *the* hardest — hit by the state and city’s reopening regulations. While some have been able to pivot to successful online programs, those programs have not been able to make up for what was robust in-person classes.

“We are being not allowed to work hard,” Lyons told the founder of Barstool Sports in a Twitter video. “Why do some people get to open? Why do some people get to go on planes?”

So this seems like a good time to point out the crazy inconsistencies in the regulations for what I will call “physical culture establishments,” to borrow from government speak. (Restaurant regulations are another thing and also unpredictable and inconsistent, especially when it comes to indoor dining across local counties.)

Right now New York City is the only region in the state where studios are not allowed to operate even at a reduced capacity UNLESS they run children’s programs. However, gyms *are* operating at 25 capacity and with social distancing guidelines in place, which seems, well, unfair on a lot of levels.

“For me that’s the maddening part that keeps me up at night,” says Tribecan Jen Lobo Plamondon, who founded the yoga studio bodē nyc 21 years ago with her business partner, Donna Rubin, and has three studios in Manhattan. The company now runs 30 classes a week online, and in June launched an online platform, but it does not — quite literally — pay the rent. “De Blasio just left us out of it. We’re supposed to be part of Phase 4 and since then there has been no news — just crickets. I’ll walk by an Equinox or Planet Fitness and see all these people panting on a treadmill. In Southampton, I am going to a class on Saturday morning. It makes no sense.”

So to the unfairness: The regulations clearly restrict small businesses more than big fitness corporations, and I can see no rationale that supports this. (And I asked for a rationale from the mayor’s office a couple times with no response.) Plamondon makes the good point that a more sound rationale might have been to permit fitness that is lower impact, such as yoga or Pilates. And in fact, that is how the state of New Jersey managed its openings. “In yoga, you breath in and out through your nose — it’s not mouth breathing,” she notes.

Manhattan also has lower rates of infection than many other parts of the state, including Nassau and Suffolk counties, where studios are operating with reduced capacity and indoor dining is open. The latest data from the state shows New York county at 5 percent, and Nassau and Suffolk at 7.3 and 7.9 percent.

This has taken a huge toll locally. When Outer Reach opened in July 2019 on Greenwich, I counted 16 yoga or Pilates studios. Closed since March are Xtend Tribeca, Yoga Shanti, Outer Reach and Kula Yoga. The Wat, a martial arts studio on Broadway, has also closed.

“If this is what’s puts out of business it will be a real shame,” says Plamondon, who invested in new filtration systems for all her studios this spring. “There’s no reason that 10 people in a room in New York City should be any different than Westchester. We know we can do this safely — and other people are doing it safely around the entire country. Except for New York City.”



  1. great article and 100 percent true. Other parts of New York state are open safely. Other states also. We are getting killed here in the city with our small businesses. When will it end.

    • I find it mind boggling and upsetting. Small Studioshave much greater over sight than a large gym. Yoga, Pilates, mediation classes can all be done outside as well in parks with heat lamps and weather permitting. The opening of gyms and not small local studios is beyond me. I am not in favor personally of being physically inside either during this pandemic time due to my personal health and what I feel is best. But per the regulations it really angers and saddens me as Studios have a special place in my heart.

  2. I completely agree that small businesses have been disproportionately hit, particularly in NYC during the pandemic. It’s maddening that the rules are made and enforced so unevenly across the state and amongst different types of businesses. That said, I will note that while the larger gyms are open, they are not hosting any in person classes. It’s all solo workouts. And yes, masks, social distancing and capacity rules are in place and enforced. I do respect the point that having a few people in a low impact yoga class is probably just as safe as someone sprinting and sweating on a treadmill…but no fitness facility seems to be allowed to host classes so that is consistent, even if not logical. I wish the best to the studios in the neighborhood!

  3. Now that King Cuomo’s archnemesis Trump is out of office, the Governor will make science-based decisions.

  4. The wonderful Yoga Vida studio also closed. It’s heartbreaking
    to lose these small businesses that had such a personal connection with Tribeca residents

  5. I would include pools in this article. Manhattan Youth no longer has lane swimming and as far as I know BMCC and Stuyvesant have not opened their pools for lane swimming.

  6. 100% agree. As a yoga studio owner, it has been tremendously hard for us to sustain our business and keep the studio afloat. It is very sad to see so many small businesses suffer from lack of guidance and support from the government. It makes absolutely no sense that gyms can reopen, but yoga studios remain closed. Now is actually the time that yoga practice is needed the most – to help cultivate positivity, mindfulness, and awareness. And unlike gyms, yoga studios don’t even involve sharing equipments. Students can bring their own mat/props. Sincerely hope we will hear clear guidance from NYC government soon!