A New Jersey gym that had been publicly flouting an executive order to shut down was found in contempt of court on Friday, subjecting the business to fines.
New Jersey Advance Media reports that Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., had refused to comply with Gov. Phil Murphy’s order aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic. The gym had gone so far as to remove its doors in order to prevent them from being padlocked by authorities.
Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy’s ruling on the contempt hearing came on Friday, after hearing additional evidence from the state attorney general’s office.
“While I wish it had not come to this, I am grateful that the court recognized the need for compliance,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.
“The vast majority of businesses and residents are following these rules and doing their part to keep their friends and neighbors safe, and those few companies who flout our Executive Orders are once again on notice that we will hold them accountable.”
State investigators had reportedly seen groups of people entering the facility in the past week, few of whom were wearing masks. A health inspection report says that inspectors were barred from entering the facility to continue the investigation in greater detail.
Gym owner Ian Smith said that he would continue the fight, pledging to remain at the gym all day, every day.
“We will not leave this building under any circumstances unless they take us out in handcuffs,” he said.
Smith’s lawyer James Mermigis told New Jersey Advance Media that he may seek to challenge the contempt ruling on the grounds that the groups officials observed at the location were not proven to have been working out, and that the need to keep businesses shuttered has passed as the state gets a handle on its COVID-19 cases.
The owners face criminal charges for remaining open during the pandemic, but have also filed a federal lawsuit against the state.