Fitness studio request doesn’t sit well with competitors

Emma Jordan says she plays by the rules and expects others to do the same.

Which is why she and her business partner, Stephanie Norris, owners of The Bar Method, 55 S. Main St., were before the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission recently, protesting a code variance sought by a competitor.

The Bar Method employs a combination of pilates, yoga and dance to help customers in its classes get in shape and stay fit.

“We followed the rules and went with the second floor,” Jordan told the commissioners, referring to city code that requires training studios in the downtown business district to be on the second floor or above.

Pure Barr, a growing national company of fitness studios, is seeking a variance to open a franchise at 144 W. Jefferson Ave., former home of Wolf Camera.

Pure Barr operates 146 franchises in 36 states and wants to use 712 square feet of the first floor to operate the studio that whips clients into shape using a combination of the ballet bar, music and isometric movements.

Colleen Patrino owns the Dailey Method training studio, 200 E. Fifth Ave., agrees with Jordan and Norris concerning the proposal.

“We all stick to the rules,” she said. “If they get this variance, you could be putting me out of business someday.”

The commission agreed with the protesters, voting 6 to 3 against sending the petition to the full City Council with a positive recommendation. Members Tim Messer, Sean Hastings and Chairwoman Patty Gustin dissented.

The Naperville Downtown2030 plan suggests a variance could be allowed for businesses along the periphery of downtown.

Chris Dalton represented Pure Barr at the meeting, and gave a presentation that highlighted the upscale nature of its clientele, stressing the value of it being predominantly female homeowners who would patronize other retailers in the downtown area after their workouts.

“We are a draw for the area,” he said.

Dalton also stressed that the early-morning workouts of no more than 25 customers would not cause traffic or parking problems.

But most of the commissioners failed to see a compelling reason to grant the variance.

“I’m not understanding how that is a challenged retail area,” commission member Greg Bruno said. “I like the concept, but it is not fair.”

Dwight Yackley, The Bar Method’s landlord, spoke against granting the variance and when asked if there still existed retail demand in the downtown area, said, “Yes, absolutely. It should be a retail area.”

Dalton told the commission that the company projected that in a prime location like the corner of Jefferson and Webster streets, the franchise could realize $250,000 in retail sales by selling clothes and other equipment and match the $250,000 expected from studio classes.

If retail sales matched or exceeded revenue from classes, Pure Barr could make a credible case that it belonged in a location zoned for retail.

Steven Rubin, managing partner of the firm that owns the building, spoke on behalf of Pure Barr, saying “Competition is what drives our economy.”

But Commissioner Bob Williams said he saw “no real hardship” posed by the code and appealed to the rule of law.

“What good are rules if you don’t follow them,” he said.

Pure Barr will take the petition to the full City Council, but after the meeting, no one from the company mentioned any significant change to be made to the business plan.

Rubin did say that he hoped to emphasize the retail aspect of the business before City Council.

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