By Hazel Sanchez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the city continues its road to reopening businesses, the owners of group fitness studios say they’re being left out.

It’s been a full year since Dance Body members have been able to enjoy class inside a studio.

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Owner Katia Pryce joined them and other fitness boutique owners outside City Hall on Tuesday, demanding Mayor Bill de Blasio allow them to reopen.

“We are not asking for special treatment here, let’s be clear. We’re asking for the same rules, the same regulations, as every other small business and business that’s been able to reopen in New York City,” Pryce said.

In September, the city allowed regular gyms to reopen with restrictions, but group fitness studios — like SLT in Tribeca, which is known for its intense form of Pilates — remain closed.

SLT founder and CEO Amanda Freeman had to close four of 13 studios in New York City and lay off 200 employees.

“Compared to 2019, 2020 was down 80%, and 2021 continues similarly,” she told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.

The mayor is defending the city’s position.

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“I’ve had this conversation with the health team and they remain very consistent in saying not yet,” de Blasio said.

“A lot of that has to do with people in close proximity, breathing heavily, and the likelihood that masks may fail because they get wet,” said Dr. Jay Varma, NYC senior health advisor.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“We can be six feet apart. We can require masks. We can do contact tracing, no sharing of equipment, limited numbers of people in the classes. We can be just as safe as a gym, if not more so,” Freeman said.

The owners say the importance of reopening is not just about restoring a financial lifeline for them but also a physical and mental lifeline for their clients.

“The irony is that one of the healthiest businesses around, one of the healthiest industries in group fitness, is not allowed to help their clientele right now,” Freeman said.

“This is not about getting your cardio in. This is about preserving our mental health as we come out of this pandemic,” Pryce said.

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Those who rely on the classes for peace of mind say the continued closures aren’t working out.

Hazel Sanchez