Equinox chair, Harvey Spevak, has created a COVID-19 reopening taskforce with medical experts – epidemiologists
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Equinox chair, Harvey Spevak, has created a COVID-19 reopening taskforce with medical experts – epidemiologists

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We've been working on our re-opening strategy and we've created a task force to work on a comprehensive plan
Harvey Spevak (speaking on CNBC)

High-end fitness operator Equinox will not rush to reopen its clubs and studios, even if given permission by authorities to do so, according to executive chair Harvey Spevak.

Speaking to CNBC, Spevak said the company has adopted a "wait-and-see" approach to doing its best to ensure all reopenings happen in a safe and measured way.

He also revealed that the company – whose portfolio includes more than 100 properties across the Equinox, Soul Cycle, PURE Yoga and Blink Fitness brands – has created a special taskforce to oversee its relaunch strategy, saying: "We've been working on our re-opening plan and we've created a task force to work on a comprehensive strategy.

"It will be supported by our own team of medical experts – some of who are the foremost specialists in infectious disease and epidemiology.

"We're dealing with a global pandemic," said Spevak, "but it's really a localised issue. As we look to reopen, our team will be working with local government officials to determine what's best.

"For example, in the state of Georgia, US, where we're permitted to reopen, we've chosen not to. While we're eager to reopen – and a lot of our members are eager to come back – we have a responsibility to maintain our high standards and not rush to reopen.

Spevak said Equinox had done a survey of members and found that 74 per cent of them wanted to come back on reopening.

"Therefore, we're taking a wait-and-see approach in all of the cities we operate in – whether in the US, Canada or the UK.

"We need to create confidence with our customers and for them to feel it's OK to come into our clubs and studios."

Spevak, who rarely speaks to the media, also offered insights into how the company is focusing on keeping hold of "its lifeblood" – its workforce.

"When the closures began, we first and foremost focused on protecting our employees," Spevak said.

"Between 60 and 65 per cent of our staff are still on the payroll. That includes our group fitness instructors and personal trainers.

"For the first couple of weeks of the closure, in March, we paid everyone in full and said we'd keep everyone on healthcare coverage throughout the pandemic.

"Starting from April, we went to a slightly reduced compensation, in order for us to keep as many employees as possible on the payroll.

"In doing so, we took a different approach to most of the industry. I don't think there's anyone else out there who has done this. But it's been hugely important to who we are and our future success."

Equinox is not paying rent according to Spevak. He said "Most landlords agree with taking care of people rather than paying rent - we're working with them to decide what to do about the rent issue."

Equinox is owned by a group of investors – including Spevak as well as principals of real estate firm The Related Companies. Some of its clubs are in Related developments, such as Hudson Yards in New York City, putting it in a different position from most other operators,

To watch Harvey Spevak's interview on CNBC's Youtube channel, click here.

For more about CNBC's Squawk on the Street, click here.

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High-end fitness operator Equinox will not rush to reopen its clubs and studios even if given permission by authorities to do so, according to executive chair Harvey Spevak.
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