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Doug Krikorian's Viewpoint

Jeff Cozart's Time Of Torment: Will His Belmont Athletic Club Survive Gavin Newsom’s Latest Lockdown?

by Doug Krikorian
Special to LBREPORT.com

Mr. Krikorian, an award winning journalist and author of two books, earned multiple awards in his 22 years of writing for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and 22 years for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He is happily retired.



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(Sept. 12, 2020, 2:30 p.m.) -- Jeff Cozart is one of thousands upon thousands of business operators in California who is suffering financially, mentally and sleeplessly from what he views as the unjust Coronavirus-inspired lockdown frenzy perpetrated during the past seven months in California by its governor, Gavin Newsom.

"Does the man have any idea how many families he's disrupted, how many people he has put out of work, how many human beings he's tormented, how many business closures he's caused?" says the gentleman who oversees the Belmont Athletic Club and the adjoining Murphy's Pub.

Jeff Cozart is seated in his office on a recent afternoon, and he keeps shaking his head disconsolately when he reflects on the reality of his dark situation.

"The bills just keep coming even though money isn't," he says. "The clock is ticking ominously for me. This is a life-and-death struggle. How much longer can I go? Not much longer. Remember, I operate two businesses here, a health club and a tavern.

"I've worked in this place for 35 of my 59 years. I have a total of 84 employees -- and 25 are in our ESOP (Employee Stock Option Plan). I've given my heart and soul to this place. I still come down here every day, and get a mop and dust and do cleanup. Yet, no one is allowed to come through our front door, although at least a few loyal customers still walk up our outside stairway to enjoy having a beer and food on our balcony at Murphy's.

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"I was able to accept the first three-month lockdown by Gavin Newsom, but then we were allowed to reopen on July 13 and I thought everything would go well. I read the 15 pages of protocols that the Long Beach Health Department issued to us, and we fulfilled every one of them. We did everything perfectly. We closed down every other exercise machine. We had sanitizers at every machine. It was mandatory that our members had to clean the machines after they used them.

"Everything did go well. We had over 8,000 check-ins in the 30 days we reopened, and there was absolutely no sign from anyone having Covid-19. And then Gavin Newsom decides to shut us and all the other gyms in California down again. Why, I ask? Why? We did everything right, yet that wasn't enough. This is a nightmare for me. An absolute nightmare. Here I am in America in a so-called capitalistic system and Gavin Newsom capriciously tells me I can't operate my businesses again."

Jeff Cozart, a big, powerful 280-pound man with a gentle disposition and, usually, a ready smile, is talking for a lot of people in these parts when he relates his tale of hardship.

He is talking for the painfully distressed Dickie (2Fast2Furious) Babian, the colorful 5-foot-3, 265-pound, 85-year-old proprietor of the popular Naples dive bar, Crow's, which has been shuttered for most of the past seven months.

Or he could be talking for the nightclub impresario, Mike Neufeld, whose Gaslamp on PCH with its 600-seat capacity is now open for only three days a week and has taken a serious financial hit.

Or he could be talking for the countless restaurateurs in this city that, albeit aided by the Parklets, still are barely residing above the cut line with most operating at between 25 and 35 percent of what they normally gross.

Jeff Cozart offers statistical data from not only his club, but others to show how unfair Gavin Newsom's latest shutdown edict is to his industry.

"Since mid May, Life Time Fitness has fully or partially re-opened 125 clubs in 24 states and, as of early August, they recorded more than 7.7 million visits. During this time, they've received reports of fewer than 400, or 0.005 percent of its members and employees who have tested positive for Covid-19.

"This also aligns with broader industry data. For example, in a survey of 2,877 health clubs with 49.4 million check-ins, only 1,155 positive cases were reported through August 7, according to fitness industry consultant, Blair McHaney of MXM. This represents a virus-to-check-in ratio of less than 0.002 percent."

A 1979 graduate of Jordan High where he played football, Jeff Cozart attended Long Beach City College and Long Beach State where he obtained a degree in psychology and where he got caught up in the racquet ball craze of 1980s.

"I played that sport almost every day in those times when I was a member of the old Circle Racquet Club near the Traffic Circle,'' recalls Mr. Cozart. ``Well, the Belmont Athletic Club then had nine racquet ball courts, and a friend told me it needed someone to string the racquets, which I could do. I began working there two, three hours a day stringing racquets, and then began working there full-time. I worked the front desk, did sales, wound up doing everything and after several years became general manager. When the original owner, John Doyle, decided to get out of the business, he asked me if I was interested in taking over. I said, sure, and became a primary partner in 2012. I've been here on Second Street since January of 1985."

Jeff Cozart showed me around the downstairs and upstairs of his gym with its myriad cardio equipment and barbells and dumbbells and workout machines and even racquet ball courts (there still are two remaining).

"We spent almost a half million dollars in 2015 renovating this place," says Mr. Cozart proudly. "Can you believe this was once a popular movie theatre?"

Indeed, when I resided in Belmont Shore in the early 1970s, I saw many movies at the old Belmont, which was the classic, comfortable neighborhood theatre that often played the latest popular releases.

As Jeff Cozart strode slowly around his deserted establishment, there was a sense of melancholia pervading the scene.

"I know I can't do this much longer," he says. "You know what's unbelievable? You wouldn't believe how many members have called and told us to keep charging them, even though they can't come in. There are a lot of loyal people out there."

Jeff Cozart pauses with a grimace.

"I just don't understand why we're closed down when we didn't do anything to deserve such a fate," he says wistfully. "I mean, I think fitness gyms with the proper protocols are very safe. I read somewhere recently that the Norwegian public health researches found no Coviod-19 transmissions in fitness centers in a randomized trial of more than 3,000 members of clubs offering typical fitness services, including higher intensity exercises, with mitigation protocols that were simple and easy to adhere to. In fact, their protocols were far less stringent than ours -- and yet there was no problem.

"I pray we don't follow the destiny of one of the greatest fitness clubs in America, the Claremont Club, which shut its doors on August 3rd after 47 years. That place had it all -- tennis courts, basketball courts, large swimming pool." And it's now gone. I have no idea why Gavin Newsom shut us all down again, but he did. And now the ending is near if things don't change quickly..."


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Previously by Mr. Krikorian:

  • My Beloved Long Beach: A Victim Of Irrational Government Overreach Beyond Reasoned Response To Virus
  • Speak Up, Mr. Mayor, On Governor's Unwise Edicts. You Can Do That And You Should
  • Hallelujah! LB Mayor Pleads For Sac'to Permission To Lift Closures That Needn't Have Occurred
  • Excuses By Long Beach Police & Poticians Dishearten Damaged LB Businesses
  • Mayor/Council Sounds Of Silence After LB Cops Let Some Pillage Our Village
  • Awaiting Governor's Dictate To Decide Fate Of This Year's (July 3) "Big Bang On the Bay"
  • Will LB's New School Sup't Allocate Untimely Pay Raise To Serve Students?
  • From Krikorian's Notebook: (1) LBUSD Mgm't Mulls Keeping K-5 Kids Indoors Without Normal Access To Playground, Cafeteria, Auditorium Activities; (2) And More...
  • From Krikorian's Notebook: When Will LB Police Chief Luna Come Clean About May 31 Downtown Long Beach Looting Frenzy?
  • Long Time Long Beach Resident Dave Lopez Climaxes Storied 48-Year TV Career
  • Ben Goldberg Exits Long Beach, Now Nearby Refugee In OC
  • I Never Thought I'd Live To See These...
  • Is Long Beach Destined to Become the City That Never Sleeps?
  • Long Beach Politicians Once Again Fail Long Beach
  • A 2 1/2-Hour Commute To Work A Joy To This 86-Year Old Gentleman
  • Memo To LBUSD Sup Jill Baker: Return The Kids To the Classroom!
  • Parklets! Three Cheers For Long Beach Politicians!
  • Sadly, Our National Pastime No Longer A Pastime For Me
  • What Next From Long Beach Health Boss Kelly Colopy, Hazmat Suits For Our Restaurant Servers?
  • LBPD Chief Robert Luna: Stand Up For Your Fifty Ousted Cops!
  • FDR's Grandson, Delano Roosevelt, Talks Democratic Party, JetBlue, Long Beach And His Life
  • Krikorian Notes: From LB's Elected Leadership's Reimagining Delusions To the Gaslamp's Outdoor Wall Video Band Show To The Ghastly USC Coach, Clay Helton
  • Long Beach's Renaissance Man, Chuckie Miller, Reflects On His Entrepreneurial Life And On Racial Inequity
  • Krikorian Notes: From Majority Of LB Teachers Skipping Classrooms For The Comforts Of Home To Dr. Jill Baker Becoming Another Maria Montessori To Terry Antonelli Discussing Resurrection of L'Opera To Mayor Robert Garcia Touted By MSNBC's Brian Williams As A Future U.S. Senator To Kershaw's Magical Transformation
  • Don Kramer Was A Character Like No Other With His Zaniness, Goofiness, Joyfulness, Kindliness Who Left All Who Knew Him With Lasting Memories Of Slapstick Antics And Mirthful Anecdotes
  • Krikorian Notes: From Long Beach Mayor's Ascent To Dem Stardom Because Of Lockstep Embrace Of The Party's Policies To The Enchanting Parklet Dining On 2nd Street To Tearing Down The Hoops in Belmont Shore To Greg Silver's LB Departure To Huntington Beach To Bob Rice Protecting Me From Isiah Robertson
  • Krikorian Notes: A Labor Day Elegy For Those In The Long Beach Business Community Who Were Violated In The Memorial Day Looting Frenzy To The Palm Tree Limbs Littering 2nd Street To The Scooters Littering The Belmont Shore Bridge To The Virtual On-Line Spectacle At Big Mike O'Toole's Household
    Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.



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