A Typical COVID-19 Story with An Atypical Outlook

By: 
Katherine Clements
Jeff Cozart

How gratitude and hard work helped The Belmont Athletic Club make its way through the pandemic with hopefulness.

The story of the injustices inflicted upon small businesses because of COVID-19 is a never-ending story. As we approach this pandemic’s one-year anniversary, it’s admirable to acknowledge the small business that made it through the pandemic obstacles.

The Belmont Athletic Club on 2nd Street closed on March 16, 2020, much like other businesses. For business partner Jeff Cozart, it was a day hard to forget because they also own the connecting business, Murphy’s pub, a small, laid-back bar with an expensive beer menu, the day before St. Patrick’s Day.

“When you own an Irish pub getting shut down the day before St. Pat’s day is a real kick in the teeth!” said Cozart.

The tragedy of having two businesses shut down didn’t stop Cozart and his team. They formed a plan and checked off the boxes one by one.

 “We decided to try to make the best of the situation by re-investing in our facility and using the time to tackle projects that are difficult to get done when you are open seven days a week. We rebuilt our women’s steam room and refinished the hardwood floors in our Cardio Theater room, among other projects. We also spent time and money on preparing the facility to help battle COVID-19 with ventilation improvements, equipment spacing and more,” said Cozart.

Exercise was a valuable activity and outlet to have taken away from the community, especially in a climate that requires so much effort to remain healthy and positive. The next priority on Cozart’s list was the reinvention of the gym’s training opportunities.

“We had to find a way to offer our members something that could help them maintain their fitness levels until we reopened,” said Cozart. We started offering outside group exercise classes at the park immediately. Then we started building a video library of exercise classes and workouts that our members could access on-line.”

Although the PPP was granted to The Belmont Athletic Club, Cozart thanks their loyal members for the club’s dedication.

“The thing that kept us alive was the number of our loyal members who asked us to continue to bill them their monthly dues,” said Cozart. “I will be forever grateful to those members who took our outside classes or used our video library or keep billing me because I want to help ensure The Belmont returns. We can never do enough to repay those members for their kindness, but we will do something to try to express our gratitude.”

 In addition to their members’ loyalty, The Belmont Athletic Club’s landlord was more than understanding and cooperative.

“They [landlord] have always been very supportive over our 41-year relationship. And we got cooperation and support from our bank, Farmers and Merchants Bank in Belmont Shore. They funded a special project for us before the pandemic hit and they could have easily pulled that funding a year ago, but they didn’t. Now we will be able to offer a new feature to our business soon after we reopen,” said Cozart.

The inevitable cancelation of memberships was a factor The Belmont Athletic Club predicted they would and did face. Their inability to replenish the memberships that naturally get canceled throughout the year has been a factor in their decrease in numbers. But with a strong plan of action, Cozart and his team have found ways to continue to serve their members.

“Our overall plan during the pandemic has been to try to provide some support to our members to help them maintain their health with the outside classes and video library,” said Cozart. “The other goal was to reopen with something new to offer our members and the community. We have been working with some of our trainers to create a small group training facility with a goal-focused program design that is motivating and fun. The facility is named Shore Strength Lab and sessions will be offered to the public; you will not need to be a member of The Belmont to sign up for training sessions. However, Belmont members will have preferred session pricing.”

 The story of the Belmont Athletic Club is one filled with allies and heroes. A story heart-rending enough to award nothing but confidence in the community of Long Beach. As of March 19, the club plans to reopen and Murphy’s Pub will mirror the following week.

“Even though we are extremely excited to reopen, although, on a limited basis, this is not the end of the nightmare by a long shot,” said Cozart. “Now, the very hard work of recovery begins. This is not a re-opening-it’s a rebuilding. “

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