RAMONA, Calif. (KGTV) -- A gym owner who defied the public health order during the pandemic reflected on the past year.
There's a saying on the wall at Ramona Fitness Center: "Do or do not. There is no try." Owner Peter San Nicolas said he did what he had to do to save his gym.
"They were asking us to really just go out of business," San Nicolas said.
Like all other gyms, San Nicolas was forced to shut down during the height of the pandemic. He did at first. But the shutdown order kept changing. Last June, he was allowed to reopen outdoors in the scorching Ramona heat.
"I think it was 113°. Your shoes would melt on the asphalt!" San Nicolas said.
San Nicolas watched his revenues dip down 50% and listening to his clients.
"This is a life-saving antidepressant," San Nicolas said. "I had one member say that if he wasn't able to come in, he would've committed suicide."
So he decided to defy the county health orders and remain open indoors with safety protocols on hyperdrive. He handed sanitizing spray bottles to everyone who walked through the door and instructed everyone to keep a physical distance.
"I've been in this business since I was 11 years old, I became a member. At 16, I started working here. At 21, I bought the business. I'm sorry. I'm not going to just let my whole life's work be wiped away for really no reason because we're not part of the problem," San Nicolas said.
County statistics show in the last year, gyms accounted for only 0.5% of all exposure settings, much lower than bars and restaurants at 7.3% and retail at 9.5%.
As a consequence, San Nicolas was one of the first people in the county to be cited with five health order violations. But he said all those charges have since been dropped.
A year on, San Nicolas said he does not regret defying the order. He just wished it didn't have to come down to that. He is back to now living out the saying, Do or do not. There is no try.
"We are nowhere near where we want to be," San Nicolas said. "But that's kind of what the gym is about. People come in wanting to improve themselves and the same thing with us. We want to do better and improve our business and get back to how are used to be."
San Nicolas said still to this day, there has not been a COVID case to come out of his gym.