New Jersey pulls business license from gym that refuses to shut down – is this really happening in America?

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BELLMAWR, NJ –The nation has been gripped in one way or another since the beginning of the year when cases of the virus hit the United States.  Many government leaders moved to shut down the majority of businesses in hopes of slowing down the spread of the disease. 

In New Jersey, one of those businesses that was shut down was the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr.  Since then, the Bellmawr Borough Council has moved to revoke that gym’s business license. 

In March, Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, along with many other state leaders, imposed restrictions on New Jersey which closed down what he deemed as non-essential businesses. 

The thought process behind many of these moves, at least at time, was that there was little known about the disease, including how it spread or how infectious or deadly it is.

One of those businesses was Atilis Gym.

The owners of the gym, Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, complied with the orders initially by the state and kept their gym closed. 

However, on May 18th, they decided that they had kept the gym closed long enough and could no longer pay their bills.  As a result, they decided to open, but not before taking many precautions.

The owners of the gym sectioned off workout areas in order to keep people at least six feet apart during workouts. 

They also mandated that masks be worn unless the patron was actually in the middle of exercising. 

In addition, they only operated at 20% capacity.

This was not good enough for the Bellmawr town as the business was opened against the executive order of the governor, regardless of what precautions the gym put in place. 

As a result, the Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli obtained a court order to shut the gym down and padlock the doors.  On May 22nd, the doors were padlocked.

Disgusted by the move, Trumbetti asked:

“How is it possible that they can actually shut us down?  If there is a problem based on the coronavirus, how can they shut us down but no other businesses in the same actual building?  And it’s unconstitutional and targeting, and we are going to stand up and fight.” 

Smith says:

“We’ve all heard these public officials say ‘science and data’…We are so confident in our process and in our safety protocol that if you can show us the science and data that proves Atilis Gym in Bellmawr poses more of a threat to the general public than any other place and should remain shut down, we will happily shut our doors.” 

Instead of showing any type of scientific evidence to back their claims, both Smith and Trumbetti were arrested and charged for violating the executive order.  After they were bonded out, government officials continued to fight their battle in court, and won. 

Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy found the owners were in contempt of court for opening the business against the orders of Gov. Murphy.  In addition, Lougy’s order made clear that the pair can and will face punitive fines for opening their business.

Although Smith and Trumbetti continue to fight their belief that the gym should stay open, an emergency meeting was called by the Bellmawr Borough Council on August 11th to discuss the business license for the gym. 

In a 5-1 vote, the council decided to revoke the mercantile license in which the gym operated under.

John McCann, who is an attorney for the owner of the gym, presented arguments to the council before the vote.  He said:

“I would demand the science.  I would say, ‘Governor, show me that the gym is a danger.’” 

Regardless if the gym staying closed will help or harm public safety when it comes to the spread of COVID-19, the fact that the order comes from Gov. Murphy and Democratic Attorney General Gurbir Grewal raises eyebrows. 

The hypocritical fight of closing the gym and keeping it closed for public safety would be one thing if they did not advocate for large groups of people getting together.

However, both Grewal and Murphy have a belief that people who are attending en masse to protest and/or riot against the police, that is okay.  In an article written on MSN in June:

“The governor says that despite his stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he supports the First Amendment right to protest.” 

So the same two people who are attacking a business, who are taking, (at least they claim) precautions against the spread of COVID-19 is bad, but people who are marching and rioting, with no precautions being taken to limit the spread of the virus, over the lie of systemic racism is good? 

It’s not just happening in New Jersey.

BROWARD COUNTY, FL– Within hours of his release from the Broward County Jail, Michael Carnevale, 31, was spotted outside the gym he owns in Plantation operating 1440 Fitness from the parking lot.

Plantation police showed up and arrested him for the third time. This time, his wife was also taken into custody.

According to News Channel 8, Carnevale has refused to enforce Broward County’s emergency order mandating that masks be worn while people are working out in gyms to help stop the coronavirus from spreading.

His refusal to abide by the mandate led to his arrest back in late July, Thursday afternoon, and again on Friday morning.

According to Carnevale, the fight isn’t over. He said in a statement:

“I think that this is something worth standing for. The more we seem to comply with these mandates, the more bizarre, the more intrusive these mandates seem to have gotten.”

Carnevale claims that he does not want people to pass out while working out with masks one or to disrupt their natural breathing patterns.

Another Plantation gym owner down the street says that people can get a work out effectively with masks on. The gym owner acknowledged that the masks are indeed challenging, but claiming it is a challenge people can overcome.

In response, Carnevale said:

“I respect that gym owner’s process. I respect his opinion, all perspectives are appreciated here. But, i think the more that owners like that lay down, the worse this is going to get for us.”

On Friday, he said his arrest was unjustified since no one was inside the facility and all the workout equipment had been moved outside for patrons to use in the parking lot. He said:

“Our doors are closed. We pulled our equipment out into the parking lot. It’s all good intentions here. We jus want to make sure that south Florida has the opportunity to get fit.”

He added:

“We really have to start asking questions when they’re telling gym owners and yoga studio operators, ‘your patrons have to wear facial covering while exercising.’ Those of us in the fitness industry understand that’s not safe. This is something we can’t subscribe to anymore.”

After Carnevale was arrested, police told gym members that were working out in the parking lot that they could no longer use the equipment because the gym has been shut down. Staff members proceeded to move the equipment back inside. 

During his first arrest, Carnevale said that he believes the orders to wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic are intrusive. He said in a statement:

“If this whole thing is really about health, this is where we are getting into some murky waters here because I don’t see how I can make my patrons wear a mask while on a treadmill or while they are exercising.”

He added:

“I don’t have it in me to close the facility because my intuition is just telling me this is wrong.”

After his second arrest, Carnevale said:

“Where do we draw the line? Where do we draw the lines? We’ve lost perspective, we’ve lost common sense.”

A member commented:

“It’s kind of disappointed again that this is happening. This is the second time I’ve come here to try and work out and I’m hearing the owner of the gym got arrested again.”

NBC Miami reported that Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said in a statement:

“If the regulations weren’t enforced it means that we’re gonna have an extended period of time where we are not fully operational and the economy will suffer even more. We certainly are concerned about people earning a living and we don’t want to close businesses, but I think this generally is a little bit defiant in his behavior.”

According to reports, Carnevale has a pending lawsuit against the county, fighting back against the emergency order. The lawsuit was filed on July 26th looking for injunctive relief, claiming that his business has been negatively impacted by the county emergency orders. He refused to comment on the status of the lawsuit.

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Here is another article from Law Enforcement Today about a gym in Massachusetts that was shut down for defying the governor’s phased re-opening plan:

OXFORD, MA – Prime Fitness and Nutrition owner Dave Blondin has been the recipient of thousands of dollars in fines. All because he has violated the Massachusetts governor’s phased reopening plan. 

Charlie Baker put the plan in place, including gyms and fitness centers in phase three, which could start as early as June 29th. 

Blondin has stated that he is willing to go to jail to keep his gym open: 

“Potentially arrested, it’s 100% worth it. I do not care about that, that does not scare me. If they think that it’s going to scare me, then they can go right ahead and do so.”

But the city had another idea to keep him closed. On Thursday, through a court approval, they shut off the power and water to the gym. 

The judge, Susan Sullivan even held Blondin in contempt during his appearance in court last week.

As reported by WHDH:

“’I am ordering Oxford to close the place,’ Sullivan said. ‘Our real concern is public safety…This behavior needs to stop. I’m not looking to punish. Civil contempt is not about punishment, it’s about coercion.’ 

“Blondin has made it clear that he has no intention of closing the doors to his gym…attorneys say their client will leave the gym if the town orders it to close but that he can’t compel others to leave the building.”

For those unfamiliar with the term, the broad definition of coercion is “the use of express or implied threats of violence, reprisal or other intimidating behavior that puts a person in immediate fear of the consequences in order to compel that person to act against his or her will.”

Acts of pressure may constitute coercion if they’re used to subvert an individual’s free will or consent.

In legal terms, it’s often said that someone who’s been coerced was acting under duress. In fact, “duress” and “coercion” are often interchanged. Black’s Law Dictionary defines duress as “any unlawful threat or coercion used… to induce another to act, or to refrain from acting, in a manner they otherwise would.”

It is not a stretch to see that Sullivan is forcing Blondin to act against his free will and consent. 

Blondin set up a GoFundMe page to help offset the fines and keep the gym running. As shown below, they are not looking to profit from donations. 

“This is a fund to support Prime Fitness in North Oxford. Prime Fitness believes in the health and safety of all our members and we are an essential business because we not only keep you physically healthy, but more important, your mental health.

We believe you can continue to keep people safe while protecting the vulnerable and still keep your doors open.

“By choosing to stay open and go against the order the gym is subject to fines, we would appreciate any donations as they will help keep us open and protect the health of our members. Donations not used towards fines will be donated to to mental health organizations in order to further aid in those who are suffering.

We hope to inspire other gyms and small businesses to follow our lead. “

As of this writing, the gym has raised $19,681 of its $50K goal.  

This is not the first time we have seen gyms being targeted by city governments. In mid-May, we told you about a gym in South Carolina. 

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A local gym owner in Pickens has been reopening his gym in contrast with state Governor Henry McMaster’s executive order shutting down non-essential businesses in light of COVID-19.

Gyms happened to be included in that shutdown order.

Yet, this business owner says the Constitution gives him all the authority he needs to keep his gym open.

Larry Holliday operates the Fitness 365 gym based out of Pickens..

He’s recently had a few visits from the Pickens Police Department over keeping his gym doors open to the members who so decide to utilize the facility.

Thus far, units have been dispatched to the gym on May 12th and 13th, informing all the patrons inside the gym that they needed to leave the premises. Thereafter, officers placed signage upon the door noting that the business is closed until May 18th due to the governor’s orders.

Holliday promptly replaced said sign notifying the public that the gym is “closed” with a copy of the Bill of Rights.

He, once again, opened his gym.

Holliday is cognizant of the ongoing pandemic, but he’s among the population of folks that are beginning to see the “cure” become more detrimental than that of the pandemic itself:

“I understand that we do have a health crisis in this country, there’s no doubt about that. [There are] people dying, but there’s also people dying because of what has happened, what this has caused financially, and other ways.

I just feel like it’s time to take a stand.”

The gym owner is all too aware of Governor McMaster’s executive order that has closed numerous businesses within the state. While the closure of businesses like gyms and nail salons will be lifted come May 18th, Holliday feels that the rights of American’s have been suspended long enough:

“We have great gym members here, and they’re just ready to get out and they’re wanting to come in and so we’re just here for them. It makes me sick as an American citizen to see our rights trampled on.”

The Pickens Police Department released a statement in response to the stand being taken by Holliday:

“Police officers will inform citizens violating any executive order that they must disperse or cease their behavior. If the warning is ignored, citizens may be issued a citation in accordance with S.C. Code § 16-7-10 and fined up to $257.50.

Owners of businesses are also subject to a citation and fine if they violate any executive order issued by the Governor of South Carolina.”

Despite the warnings delivered by the local police pertaining to the governor’s orders, Holliday intends to keep his gym open as long as possible.

Frankie Shelton, who is the general manager at the Pickens Fitness 365, took to Facebook to give her support for the gym’s owner recently:

“I have always thought so much of Larry Holliday and all that he gives to our clients and us as staff!

Today this man got fed up with our constitutional rights being stripped away from us. He stood his ground and I am so proud to call him not only my boss .. but my friend!”

Shelton had reached out in a subsequent post to Deputy David Harrison from the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, who is actively running for sheriff of the county, to gather his thoughts on what she described as “McMaster’s illegal orders” that have shut down small businesses.

Deputy Harrison responded to the post, commenting the following:

“I believe it’s a shame what ALL small business owners are going through. I fully support you guys 100%!!”

Well, that’s certainly one way to garner support for an upcoming election for sheriff.

_

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