With the pandemic limiting its indoor capacity, Los Campeones Gym in northeast Minneapolis took its business outdoors, letting customers work up a sweat in a courtyard.
But the clanking weights, yelling and music in the courtyard became an irritating soundtrack for local residents. Neighbors complained to the gym and the city.
Last fall, the city ordered the gym to stop the outdoor sessions because they violated the zoning code.
Gym owner Benjamin Loehrer complied with the city, but he wants to get back outside once the weather warms. He has filed a variance request to allow him to hold activities in the courtyard going forward, saying his business will be "severely damaged" if the space can't be used.
"I'm not just saying this to be dramatic, but at this location, it's kind of a make-or-break [situation]," Loehrer said.
The Minneapolis Zoning Board of Adjustment will vote Thursday on the variance request. The current code for the property states all business activities must take place within an enclosed building.
Andrew Liska is the Minneapolis city planner who prepared the city's staff report on the site and is recommending the board deny the request.
"It's kind of a tricky one from zoning where you want a business to have some relief in a pandemic, but also to not put all of that burden on adjacent properties," Liska said.
Unlike restaurants, gyms are not eligible for temporary zoning relief, Liska said.
Loehrer has been an owner of Los Campeones for a decade, which has two other locations in Minneapolis. He bought the 25,000-square-foot property at 1324 Quincy St., which had been a boxing gym called Uppercut, in June 2019. More than 13,000 square feet of the property is a warehouse that holds the gym, and to the north of that is a 9,000-square-foot courtyard.
After buying the gym, Loehrer started renovating the courtyard and built a large solar panel canopy to cover the workout area.
He said he didn't know he was breaking city code by holding outdoor workouts. Uppercut had done the same thing.
But Los Campeones' sessions were louder and lasted longer, according to people who live behind the property.
One of those neighbors, Andy Meyer, said there were no noise issues with Uppercut, but the problems with Los Campeones started fairly soon after it opened.
"It was a slight annoyance before COVID," Meyer said. "It was devastating during COVID."
Loehrer said when he received a noise complaint, he no longer allowed music in the courtyard. He has also built a new fence and says he wants to be a good member of the community.
Liska said the board could go either way — and the saga may not end with Thursday's decision. There is an appeal process, and Loehrer said if his request is denied, he would figure out the proper next step.
"I don't know which way this is going to go," Liska said. "I'd be almost surprised if this was the end of it."
Peter Warren • 612-673-1713