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The District gym scene is booming, with new, exorbitantly priced fitness studios popping up on every gentrified corner of the city. This year, the D.C. Council decided it would try to cash in on an industry propelled by young, rich residents and proposed to apply the city’s 5.75 percent sales tax to gym memberships, fitness classes, and other personal services that were previously exempt, which also included storage companies, car washes, and bowling alleys. The gymgoers, however, proved to be the proposal’s loudest detractors.
The tax was dubbed the “Yoga Tax” back when Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration unsuccessfully tried to widen the sales tax in 2010. The fitness buffs, who did burpees this time around in front of the Wilson Building as a form of protest, argued that working out is essential to health, and the tax would dissuade people from staying healthy. Working out, they argued, should be treated like buying veggies at a farmers market, not shopping. But Council Chairman Phil Mendelson countered with studies showing that sales taxes don’t actually result in declining gym memberships. Besides, supporters pointed out, the sales tax already applied to gym equipment and gear without anyone complaining.
The gymgoers ultimately lost, and the tax went into effect. And gyms keep getting built, membership and class prices keep going up, and residents keep paying for the luxury of it all.