Gyms seeing widespread cancellation of memberships from unvaccinated users

‘Members are saying ‘I am not vaccinated, so I can’t use it, so I want to cancel membership’’

Irish gyms have seen widespread cancellations of membership from unvaccinated customers following changes to the Covid-19 restrictions, with some gym users reportedly becoming hostile to staff over the changes.

Under additional pandemic curbs introduced earlier this week the need to show a Covid-19 vaccination certificate was broadened to cover gyms, leisure centres and hotels.

"[Staff] are finding members coming in and saying 'I am not vaccinated, so I can't use it, so I want to either cancel or suspend membership'," said Karl Dunne, chief executive of the Leisure, Health and Fitness Association.

“It’s quite common across all our members, who have come back to us that they are receiving hassle from a certain cohort.”

Mr Dunne said one gym in particular had more than 100 members demanding the cancellation or suspension of their membership, an issue which he raised during a meeting with Department of Sport officials on Thursday.

New Year’s resolutions often involve gym memberships and the industry views January as a bumper month. However, the 370-member association is predicting a decline of up to 40 per cent next month. It is seeking enhanced financial supports from Government, including a grant for heating swimming pools, which have seen a falloff in use.

Audience capacity

People in various sectors are attempting to navigate this week’s additional pandemic measures. The events industry – operators have had to cut indoor audience capacity by half – is still grappling with how to rearrange shows and refund ticket-holders in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

"It's just chaos because people are trying to figure out what to do with their [already sold] tickets," said Elaine O'Connor, of the Event Industry Association of Ireland (EIAI).

In a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his Ministers this week, the EIAI described a broad and varied sector reduced to a category of “entertainment” by officials and “treated as somewhat of a societal sideshow”.

“Significant reputational damage has been caused by the inference that our activity and venues are somehow less safe than other public environments, undermining public confidence in our ability to deliver safe event activity,” it said, appealing for Government to adopt its proposed recovery plan.

Two gigs

Co Meath band N.O.A.H will play two gigs in Dublin on Friday night with the capacity reduced to 100 per show. Manager Shea McNelis said almost 500 tickets were sold for the original concert, and the band would instead stage three concerts, including another February one, so the same number of fans could attend.

Those who had bought tickets before the latest measures have been contacted by the selling agent or the band through social media, a measure of the complexities of reorganising events.

“People in the arts industry have been really, really badly treated,” said Mr McNelis, who predicted an imminent entertainment “brain-drain”.

“It’s going to be a big problem. You are looking at all these big events and concerts in Ireland next year; I don’t know where they are going to get the people.”

Restriction-related problems are beginning to filter through in the restaurant industry too. Adrian Cummins, of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, said staff were spending considerable time confirming pre-existing bookings, rearranging those in excess of the new six-per-table limit and handling cancellations.