The owners of embattled Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, were arrested on Monday for reopening their gym in defiance of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's lockdown order. The arrests came after a judge ruled New Jersey could forcibly shut down the gym.
However, Murphy couldn't keep the gym owners down for long.
On Saturday, just days after being released from jail, owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti kicked down government-installed barriers to reopen the gym.
Just happened: Owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, closed by the state in dispute over pandemic regulations, kick in… https://t.co/c5CpUzen04— jim walsh (@jim walsh)1596281233.0
"Gov. Murphy has weaponized the police force against us over and over," Smith said, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. "I think he looks foolish, the way he's treating us — he's pulling out all the stops. You have to ask, how far will one man go to destroy a small business?"
Atilis Gym has faced an uphill battle since defiantly reopening in May. Law enforcement has forced the gym to shut down several times.
In fact, the government is so determined to keep the gym closed that, according to the Inquirer, Bellmawr officials will consider revoking the gym's business license at an upcoming meeting on Tuesday.
If their license is revoked, Atilis Gym may have to shutter its doors permanently.
The decision to reopen the gym despite their recent arrest was popular with locals. From the Inquirer:
Around 8 a.m. Saturday, Smith and Trumbetti kicked and forced in the boards as supporters and gym members cheered them on, then replaced the doors on their hinges. Several dozen people watched from the parking lot, many waving American flags and listening to patriotic music blasting from speakers in front of the gym. Several attendees had traveled from other parts of New Jersey, and some waved anti-Murphy signs or wore pro-Trump accessories.
However, Smith and Trumbetti did not reopen without first ensuring that members would be safe.
Although they did not require members to wear masks, they limited the gym capacity to just 25% — which equates to 40 to 50 members working out at once — constantly monitored members' temperatures, asked members to sign waivers, and gave each member their own disinfectant spray. They also installed a new air purification system.
"You can do this safely," Smith told the Inquirer. "You can't say that all gyms have bad ventilation. Some might — but to put them all in one category shows you don't understand discrepancies and nuance. It shows you're not actually interested in helping small businesses."
All told, the gym spent thousands of dollars on safety upgrades before reopening.