“I own Ottawa Nautilus Fit 24. I’m a personal trainer, nutritionist and class instructor. I have contracted trainers, along with staff, and currently we’re completely closed due to [the governor’s] orders.

“I have no income at all. All our auto withdrawals are canceled, and we have extended all the memberships 70 days so far. I’m selling pieces of equipment and personal items to try and pay the bills. I’m out of backup gear and the children’s equipment is gone. I am well into it now, trying to sell some of the main equipment we’ll need to reopen, if we can reopen.

“How are we supposed to pay our bills? Just keep selling our stuff, until there’s nothing left? But you can’t do that because you have people counting on you. You have memberships people are waiting on. Hundreds of memberships, not just one or two. You have hundreds of people that need your facility to become healthy or to build their health.

“It’s just sad. It really is. Every time something goes out the door, I cry. But the way I look at it is, it would be easier to come back from selling things than it would be from shutting the whole business down.

“They’re not just our customers here. They’re our family. You make connections with everyone.

“They expect us to put our needs aside along with the mental and well-being needs of our customers. Many need our services for medical reasons. I’ve seen people come in, with mobility limitations, able to run on the treadmill after being here for a few months.

“My customers are not going to do a class outside. Some of them have mobility limitations, self-esteem issues and many other problems.

“I don’t know why some people think we’re not essential. Is it just a stereotype of looking beautiful and being a bodybuilder? Yeah, that’s like maybe 10-20% of the market. But 80% is normal people just trying to be healthy, build their bone density, build their immune system, relieve stress and function on a daily basis. No one is looking at that.

“Restaurants are able to make some kind of an income still by doing carry out and doing drive up, and we have none. Some fitness centers looked at doing online classes. Well, how can you do online classes when there’s a plethora of free options for people? No one’s going to pay for them. No one. Not here. Seriously.

“It just makes no sense how other places can have options to be open and we have to stay closed. We have always had cleaning procedures in place. We have daily, weekly, monthly routines. We have sanitation stations. We are extremely clean. If you walk into a grocery store, they are filthy. There’s people coming and going all the time. We don’t have that. The little studios don’t have that. We have the opportunity to clean in between each person. The big stores, yeah, they wipe off a cart. But when you touch a product, who touched that before you? They’re gonna wash off all their products, too?

“Our gym is sterile, clean and always has been. Many other fitness centers are as well.

“It’s not frustrating as much as heartbreaking. We did what we needed to do. It’s now time for us to move forward. Even if it’s a little bit.

“At least let us open our doors with a capacity limit based on square footage. We have 19,000 square feet. There’s plenty of room to social distance.

“The progressive tax is a big joke. [Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s] already taxed the hell out of us as it is. He’s going to take anything we all make when we’re trying to reopen? Well, he’ll get zero tax on our zero income. You can’t tax your way to prosperity.

“There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into building this business. I don’t want to see it go. So, you keep fighting.”

Denetta Flamingo
Owner, Ottawa Nautilus Fit 24
Ottawa, Illinois