South Jersey Gym That Defied Murphy Shuts Again After Court Order

Tom Davis

BELLMAWR, NJ — A South Jersey gym that reopened Friday in defiance of Gov. Phil Murphy's stay-at-home executive order has shut down again after a court order.

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr confirmed that the state Superior Court granted the Murphy administration's request to close the gym, and that the business will oblige and stay shut this weekend, and through Tuesday.

"Slimeball Gov. Murphy pulled a fast one by the end of the day," Ian Smith, one of the owners, said on Instagram. He said he wouldn't defy the order because "a violation of that becomes much more serious."

Smith said he expects to reopen on Wednesday once the gym files for an injunction to stop the Murphy administration on Tuesday.

"Just ride this out with us. It's not going to be easy," he said. "Gov. Murphy is puling out all the dirty political tricks."

Murphy, speaking during his Friday press conference, said New Jersey "is not there yet" on reopening gyms, though he wouldn't address the Atilis Gym situation specifically.

"We're not there yet," Murphy said. "What good does it do us to say we're not opening gyms unless you have a good reason?"

Murphy said the problem is the gyms are indoors, where "you don't have ventilation," there's "sweat," people are within close proximity and sedentary.

"It's a petri dish," Murphy said.

On Friday morning, the owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr said they would close temporarily – and then soon reopen again – if they got arrested for their actions.

"We bought a business 11 months ago and we intend to stay open seven days a week," Smith, one of the owners, said during a Friday press conference.

The owners said they plan to file a federal lawsuit on Tuesday and ask for an injunction to allow the gym to stay open. They claim they weren't given due process, and the governor unfairly declared Atilis non-essential.

The New Jersey Department of Health signed an order shutting down Atilis Gym in Bellmawr on Wednesday night, Camden County Spokesman Dan Keashen said Thursday morning. The order was then posted outside the gym by county officials.

"Atilis Gym has continued to operate in non-compliance with Executive Order No. 107, thus posing a threat to the public health by failing to adhere to the measures taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the order signed by New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli reads, in part.

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The gym owners said they would have measures in place to adhere to social distancing and health guidelines as set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the state health department said those measures are not enforceable or sufficient to protect public safety.

In the order, the state also said the measures don't sufficiently address the risks of the coronavirus in an indoor gym because the virus is "still too great to allow for relaxation of the current mitigation measures that are in place and necessary to reduce the transmission of" the coronavirus.

The order says gyms and fitness centers present particularly high-risk settings for spreading the coronavirus because "customers of these facilities engage in physical activities that increase the customers’ respiratory activity, which in turn can increase the amount of respiratory droplets or aerosols in a confined setting."

There is also prolonged person-to-person contact, as well as the use of communal equipment and other items, such as barbells, dumbbells, and treadmill and cross trainer grips, that may harbor the virus. According to the National Institutes of Health, the virus may live on these surfaces for up to 72 hours.

Smith and and owner Frank Trumbetti had already made it clear they intend to reopen again on Friday, putting up their own sign next to the health department's order that reads, "Attention all law enforcement officials: please call the front desk before entering, unless you have a warrant."

“Alright guys, so we arrived at the gym this morning to Governor Murphy’s dirty tricks, playing with his power in the health department," the gym’s owners posted on social media, according to nj.com. "For right now, the gym will be closed. We have a full cleaning crew inside, once again going above and beyond.”

The gym's attorney told The New York Post that the doors aren't padlocked, and that the gym was planning a "grand reopening" on Friday. He is also looking to file an injunction to have the governor's order deemed unconstitutional, and said civil lawsuits could follow.

When announcing last week that the gym would reopen, owner Ian Smith said it would take certain safety precautions, including:

  • Capacity limited to 20 percent capacity, meaning only 44 people permitted inside at once;
  • Temperatures taken at the door, and anyone with a fever of 100.4 degrees or more will not be allowed inside;
  • Members must fill out a health questionnaire before being allowed in;
  • Members must wear face covers at all times, unless they are doing sets; and
  • Workout bags must be closed and clean at all times.

The gym has been reconfigured to allow for proper social distancing, as demonstrated by a photo used during Smith's appearance on The Tucker Carlson Show. Showers and water fountains will be closed, and there will be no group classes. Only members were allowed in, and no new members were being taken.

This article originally appeared on the Gloucester Township Patch