Many business owners in Multnomah County thought they would open Friday, but Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday night that this was not going to happen. In response to a spike in COVID-19 cases Thursday, the governor put a break on all county applications for seven days.
“It was really like a lack of respect on the part of the governor and a disregard for where the companies are,” said Greg Eisenzimmer, vice president of Cascade Sports Clubs.
Cascade Athletic Clubs has two locations in Multnomah County, one in Portland and one in Gresham. Eisenzimmer said when he heard the county was put on hold, he was shocked.
“Ersonne doesn’t stay home and stay safe because of it. Our businesses are simply at a disadvantage and ultimately our communities are affected because these customers are leaving for other counties that have had the chance to open a week before us,” he said.
So he says he felt that the best option was to open both gymnasiums anyway as a form of protest.
“We told members that we do not charge you any dues while we are open in protest, so we do not bring any income unless someone chooses to pay us. We told the staff that you don’t have to come in,” Eisenzimmer said.
On Friday morning, the club defied the governor’s decision and let the club members come back if they wanted to.
“I think it’s time,” club member Kirk Royse said as he entered the building.
He said he was pleased to see the decision taken by management.
“E thinks it’s America. I think we’re free people, I thought,” Royse said.
But, the news of the opening came as a bit of a surprise to some, like former employee John Nolan.
“I was surprised that they were going political,” he said.
But, Eisenzimmer says he doesn’t see what the gym is doing as a political statement.
“I don’t want it to be political,” he said. “He doesn’t want him to go there, even if inevitably he’ll be seen that way.”
And the threat of COVID-19 is not a deterrent for some club members, who have said they are not worried about the virus.
“Not really. We will be clean and safe,” Royse said.
Eisenzimmer says the gym will remain open as long as it can.
“It is so unfair for the governor to keep Multnomah County completely closed when all the surrounding counties are open,” he said.
Eisenzimmer said he hopes he doesn’t go down to the state punishing the company for opening up.
Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.