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Outdoor Fitness Trainers May Face Legal Hurdles

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Fitness trainers and instructors who use public outdoor spaces are running into legal problems in some cities, and they're not the only small business operators at risk.

The city of Santa Monica, California, is considering charging an annual fee for trainers who use public parks as workout spaces, and asking for a percentage of their gross revenue. If that happens, it could be a huge expense for those fitness buffs-turned-entrepreneurs.

But the extra cost isn't the only concern. Santa Monica's decision is a reminder that anyone using public space has legal responsibilities.

Parks and other public outdoor spots are open to everyone, but that doesn't mean all uses are free. Local governments can and do have different rules for different uses.

If an event will draw a large crowd or make a lot of noise, a permit may be required. Having a microphone or any amplified sound may require special permission.

Commercial uses of public space can also come with a cost. Check the local rules about where and when you can hold events for your business.

For a program like Santa Monica's, where the city would regulate personal trainers and fitness instructors who use outdoor spaces, it's also important to make sure the business is properly incorporated.

Incorporation generally shields the business owner from personal liability, and thus personal expense, in the event of a lawsuit or other legal problem.

All businesses should be incorporated, but if you have interactions with local or state government, it's even more important. Not sure how to get started? It helps to talk to an experienced lawyer about how incorporation works.

Physical fitness training has its own risks, but any small business owner could be liable for injuries that happen during a sponsored event or on company property.

The best way to avoid this issue, whether your business focuses on fitness or not, is to have liability insurance. While it can be a big expense, it also can protect you and your company down the road.

Of course, this won't prevent the extra costs for Santa Monica fitness trainers if the charges are put in place. But at least they can protect their businesses from further legal problems.

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