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Denver gym serving LGBTQ clients in danger of closing due to increased rent

DENVER — A Denver gym that caters to the LGBTQ community is in danger of closing because of an increase in their rent.

“This is the culmination of six and a half years of work,” said Styler Ells, the owner and manager of Metamorphosis Fitness. “Metamorphosis was really born out of my own journey.”

Ells, who uses they/them pronouns, was a soccer player in college until they broke their leg. The injury changed their life.

“Over the course of the next year and a half, I just had some pretty poor habits, health habits. And so, I gained a lot of weight. I stopped moving my body. I wasn’t taking care of myself nutritionally,” Ells explained. “Once I had children, I realized that I wanted to teach them to really be more thoughtful about their bodies and their nutrition and their minds. And the only way to really teach them was to show them through my own efforts. So I started to really get into fitness.”

Ells quit their job around seven years ago, and friends encouraged them to open a gym. Metamorphosis Fitness was born in 2017.

“It is totally individualized to every single person. So, no matter who walks through the door, we’re going to help them meet their body, wherever it is, in that fitness journey. We’re definitely not a one-size-fits-all all,” Ells said. “We do cater to the queer community. Eighty-five percent of our members identify as part of that community. And then the rest of the other 15% are strong allies, and support local business and local queer business.”

The clientele at Metamorphosis Fitness has nearly doubled in the last year, and most of their clients stay with the gym.

“It took us six and a half years to get there. So, you know, the queer community is a little slow to trust,” Ells said.

However, the gym is in danger. Ells said since the lease was signed in 2017, they paid a flat rate for rent that increased by $100 every year.

“In December of 2021, a new management company took over, so they manage the entire property,” said Ells. “January 2022, we received our first bill from the new company, which had our old rent rate which we’ve been paying for the last six and a half years, plus new common area maintenance charges and taxes and some other additional fees. And so basically, with those additions, it increased our rent by about 45%.”

Denver gym serving LGBTQ clients in danger of closing due to increased rent

Ells said their rent increased by around $2,500 a month.

“I do want to specify they’re 100% within their rights to do that … We just had never experienced that charge before. The old management company had never enacted that charge,” Ells said. “It was a bit of a surprise to us. We weren’t quite ready for it.”

The gym has a reconciliation bill for approximately $13,600, which covers their outstanding balance from 2022 as well as the charges from this year that the gym could not cover yet. As of Monday, the gym had paid half of the bill. They were able to do so thanks to the increase in membership, Ells dipping into their personal savings, and money raised through a GoFundMe.

“We figured that maybe there are people in the community that really support what we do and understand the need for a super safe space for the queer community to come and get fit and work on their mental health,” Ells said about starting the fundraiser.

Ells wants to resolve the bill within the next month and hopes with the support of the community, they can make it happen.

“There are a lot of folks who are really working on their mental health, they’re working on their sobriety, they’re working on their physical health. And it’s really hard to find queer inclusive spaces in Denver that are queer-owned, and that are queer-operated, and that are trauma-informed and understand what it’s like to have those experiences,” Ells said. “This gym is way bigger than me. This gym is about having a safe space for people to come, explore their bodies, explore how they feel about movement in general, and reconnect in a way that’s going to be safe for them.”

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