The owner of a New Jersey gym who has defied Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's lockdown orders since May said he's fined every day for keeping his gym open but not one case of COVID-19 has been traced back to his facility.
Ian Smith and his partner Frank Trumbetti, the owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, have kept their business open despite an executive order shuttering New Jersey gyms and other businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Smith appeared on "America's Newsroom" Thursday to discuss the gym's rebellion against the lockdown and the consequences of challenging the state.
"We open every single day. Gov. Murphy has thrown everything he possibly could to shut us down," Smith told Fox News. "He has arrested my partner and I. He's given us over 60 citations, some of them criminal. He fines us $15,497.76 per day for every day that we're in operation."
He estimated that the total sum of the fines punitively inflicted on his business is more than $1.2 million. Regardless, Atilis Gym remains open and sees anywhere from 500 to 700 visitors daily. He explained that the gym uses safety protocols including proper sanitation and social distancing to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
"We just passed the 83,000 visit mark with not a single case of COVID tracked back to the facility," Smith proudly proclaimed.
He disputed the effectiveness of controversial lockdown policies adopted across the nation to slow the spread of the coronavirus, lamenting the harms inflicted on businesses.
"What's happening to the middle class and small businesses in America is nothing short of a complete tragedy, and I would go so far as to call it criminal," Smith said. "You're putting people out of business for good.
"You're making them reliant on big government and you're taking away their civil liberties under the guise of pretending like you care about public health," he continued. "But you're not providing any science and you're certainly not providing any data that would prove that your actions have any real basis in reality.
"And on top of that, you're not offering any help at all," he added.
Businesses across the country are reeling as state governments reimpose stay-at-home orders and other restrictions in response to a surge in positive coronavirus cases. While many Americans face economic hardship during the pandemic, Congress has been slow to pass a new coronavirus relief package for American businesses and families. President Trump in October offered to sign a $1.8 trillion relief bill that would provide $1,200 stimulus checks too every American adult, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected the compromise, insisting on her $2.2 trillion that included bailouts for state and local governments facing budget shortfalls.
Now, after the election, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have put together a $908 billion coronavirus relief package and Democratic leaders have signaled support for the package as a starting point for new negotiations.
But for business owners like Smith, a new stimulus package won't give them what they really want — to be open for business.
"People are ready to get back to life," Smith said. "We can do so in a safe manner without shutting down businesses and closing them for good."