Mo Chaudry, who grew up in Wellington, Shropshire, said it was ‘absurd and grossly unfair’ that pubs should be able to reopen on July 4, while indoor gyms and fitness centres must remain closed.
Mr Chaudry’s leisure and fitness group is one of the largest family-run independent businesses of its kind, with sites across the UK.
It includes the Waterworld leisure resort in Stoke-on-Trent, which is currently mid-way through a £12 million expansion, the Staffordshire-based M Club fitness chain and gym equipment supplier The Pulse Group.
“How can it possibly be safer for people to go back into a pub, than it is for them to set foot in a gym?” he said. “This makes no sense at all – it’s ridiculous.
“I’m calling on the Government to urgently rethink this completely illogical policy – not just for the sake of our industry, but for the benefit of people’s health too.
“Larger indoor gyms are able to control social distancing much more easily than the majority of pubs. They are spacious, safe and excellently ventilated.
“Not only that, but the benefits of exercise are enormous to the UK population, both in terms people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
“Allowing people to lead healthier lives saves the NHS billions – on the other hand, I wonder how much it will cost them in drink-related accident and emergency cases when people pile back into the pubs.”
Mr Chaudry added: “I believe the health and fitness industry has been betrayed by this latest nonsensical decision.
“It makes a mockery of the Government’s long-time commitment to tackle obesity when it tells people they can go back into pubs and restaurants, but can’t visit their local gym or pool.
“The Government itself, and its scientific advisers, have acknowledged that people who lead healthier lifestyles are at a lower risk of being seriously affected by Covid-19.
“What’s more important for people right now – to lead active and healthy lifestyles, or to be able to eat and drink out?
“We operate more than 25 fitness and soccer centres around the UK and employ over 600 people – as well as providing important work for a further 300 freelance staff.
“The longer these facilities stay closed, the greater the risk of job losses, particularly with furlough support being phased out.”
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said it is the Government’s ‘aspiration’ to reopen gyms and fitness facilities in mid July, but has given no guarantees.
Mr Chaudry said: “Where is the scientific evidence to justify this continued delay?
“If the Government can provide proof that there is a greater risk to public health from reopening larger indoor gyms than allowing people to get drunk in pubs, then let’s see it.
“Otherwise, stop discriminating against the health and fitness industry, and apply some common sense to the situation.”
According to the most recent ‘State of the UK Fitness Industry’ report, the industry is now worth more than £5 billion, with one is every seven people now holding a gym or leisure club membership.
Pulse gym equipment is now enjoyed by 14 million people across 35 countries.
Waterworld has already been using a cocktail of anti-bacterial chemicals which help to create a non Covid-friendly environment.
Mr Chaudry said: “It is one of the least friendly environments you can find for the spread of coronavirus respiratory viruses are more powerful in cool, dry air – and Waterworld is a warm and humid environment."