Dear RIOT Family and Ellsworth Community,
I will start with ripping off the band-aide. After 15 years of operation we are closing. All monies paid for this fall will be refunded. I will be sending checks out in the mail over the next couple of weeks.
This letter is not easy to write. It is breaking my heart. I am asking for all of you to simply accept this decision and understand we have done everything we feel we could. There just come a point where we have to say, "enough".
We have been using borrowed money to stay open, money that does have to be paid back. We had a working plan going into the fall that would have hopefully allowed us to stop using borrowed money. That plan is no longer feasible.
Yesterday, the State of Maine released new guidelines for Community Sports. These guidelines were released, not because there was an outbreak in a community sport setting, but to better align with the the State of Maine wants with school sports. They had to change these guidelines before rejecting the MPA's proposed guidelines for school sports.
We were already operating at a level much stricter then what the former guidelines requested. We were doing this because it's important for us to model for our students how to follow rules we don't like and be respectful of others. I will be honest, I personally don't agree with all the rules being put out, but my personal feelings and beliefs are mine. I will be respectful of our community and of our state mandates. I also wanted to be able to tell the "powers that be", if we had an outbreak, that we did our best to follow state guidelines.
The new state guidelines take things farther then I feel comfortable even as a business owner, and also make it financially impossible to operate in margins that keep me out of the red.
First, the wording of the guidelines is much stricter. It has gone from suggestions and is worded more as mandates. There is no longer wiggle room. I won't go over all 9 pages, but I will share the few things that has caused us to close.
-If students can't guarantee being 6 feet apart at all times they have to wear a mask when doing light and moderate exercise. Currently, even in our large space, there isn't enough room for that. The center of our boxes are six feet apart, but the borders are only 3 feet apart. I would have to move the boxes so the borders are six feet apart or ask students to wear masks during class as what we do is moderate exercise.
-Instructors would have to wear masks even when teaching.
-We can't do intense exercise in an enclosed space. (There is no definition of what an enclosed space is. In the end, in other guidelines, intense exercise inside has to be 14 feet apart. The assumption is, if I were to ask, that would be the answer given.)
I am sure many of you will run to the guidelines to see for yourself, and I'm sure some of you may interpret them differently. It's easy to do that if you want to make something fit what you want it to be. Just trust that I have been reading guidelines for six months, not just community sports but ALL guidelines for other things as well. I feel I have a good grasp of the intent behind word usage. In the end, with anything vague, I ask myself, what would the state say about how I followed a rule if I have an outbreak. Would they be satisfied with my interpretation?
I know this news brings grief, anger and frustration. I know you have invested time and money into this program. All I can say is, whatever you are feeling my family is feeling it too. We have invested 100s of 1000s of dollars into this business. I have worked for free for years to serve our community. We are feeling a hug loss right now as we have done this together for most of our marriage and adult life. Even Lyme Disease and total disability didn't shut us down.
I am asking for you to not send me idea's of how to stay open or ways to make things work. I honestly, just need an emotional break from all of this. The stress of the past six months has been weighing on me and I need time to take a big breath.
I will be shutting down social media and chat for a bit. The page and group will remain open but I personally will be taking the apps off my phone to allow myself a brief break as my phone is going to blow up once I post this. I will be having instructors post in the group ways you can help with the closing process as we have 4800 sq feet to empty.
I truly mean it way I say I love all of you. You are my family. Covid will end one day.
-Scott and Holly Lounder