Weightlifting Gym Lobbies Local Government to Protect Renters, Encourages CrossFit Affiliates to Follow Suit

April 10, 2020 by
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When his gym in Lawndale, CA was mandated to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Neil Fischbein took matters into his own hands to lobby his local government to protect renters.

Fischbein reached out to his Mayor directly, and the two spoke on the telephone.

  • “(Los Angeles County) had already been contemplating protections, so we discussed the importance of adding commercial protections, which they did,” said Fischbein, who manages Waxman’s Gym, a USA Weightlifting gym that works with countless CrossFit athletes. Prior to that, Fischbein worked in the legal field, including a role as a project manager at a law firm.

Eviction Moratorium for LA County: Shortly after Fischbein spoke with his Mayor, the County passed an eviction moratorium that states, “no landlord or commercial property owner shall evict a residential or commercial tenant for nonpayment of rent, late charges or any other fees accrued if the tenant demonstrates an inability to pay due to financial impacts related to COVID-19, or following COVID-19 precautions.”

  • Further, tenants will have six months to pay what they owe once they’re back up and running.

The same can’t be said for other regions: Currently, different cities, counties and states have taken different approaches to the issue, Fischbein explained.

  • “Decisions (in different areas of the country) range from do nothing protection all the way up to waiving rent requirements….In certain locations, landlords have mortgage protections, so they’re given temporary relief on their mortgage too,” Fischbein said.
  • “The problem is it can be very confusing sifting through all the information,” he said, which is why he has been sharing his research with other USA Weightlifting Gyms across the country.  

Seven steps for affiliate owners: Following these suggestions could help you protect your affiliate. Note, the following is not formal legal advice.

  • “I just know that USA Weightlifting gyms have been using this as a resource, and there are probably tons of CrossFit gyms in a similar boat, so if they’re worried this is what I’d encourage them to do,” he said.

Step 1: Do the Research — Find out what’s currently happening in your area. All the information is publicly available and can be understood by most laypeople without legal degrees, Fischbein said.

Step 2: Make Contact — Find your city or county contact list. For a city, this is usually City Council, a City Manager and Mayor. For a County, there is usually a Board of Supervisors, or something similar.

Step 3: Pick up the phone — Call to determine where your city or county currently stands on the topic. (If you are in California, for example, ask whether they’re considering protections for commercial renters based on the Governor’s enabling order from March 16.) If not, ask whether they will consider adopting similar measures and who you can speak with to encourage them to do so? Explain where you’re coming from as a business owner. If they are already considering, or are willing to consider, ask when would be the next opportunity for them to adopt such measures?

Step 4: Send a letter as a business owner  Fischbein put together this form letter for California gym owners as an example. Send individual letters to any/all relevant contacts — such as all the members of City Council, or all members of County Board, he explained. Do not send a single mass message, he warned. Send individual emails to each relevant contact.

Step 5: Get your members on board — Share your city or county contact list with the members of your gym and ask them to send a similar letter, such as this.

Step 6: Recruit neighboring businesses to do the same — Share your business owner letter, and encourage them to send one, as well.

Step 7: Follow-up with everyone — There is so much going on right now, regular check-ins are the best way to ensure this remains a priority, Fischbein said. Also, if there is an upcoming Council or board meeting, try to attend and speak.

Thankful for the Protection: Currently, Waxman’s Gym is still “doing everything we can to pay our bills, including our rent,” Fischbein said. And they will continue to do so as long as they can.

  • “But having some breathing room knowing if this continues for a longer time and our members have to cancel because they’re out of work or whatever, then we don’t have to worry if we can’t make rent on the first (of the month),” he said.
  • “It lets us breathe a little easier and make thoughtful decisions, rather than emergency decisions…And I imagine there are a lot of CrossFit gyms in the same situation.”

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