Gym Owner Sues Governor Over COVID-19 Closures

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The owner of a small fitness gym in Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against the state’s governor for forcing closure of his business due to COVID-19. 

David Dos Santos, CEO Of Gym World, is currently working to have all of his locations open by July 6, but he’s concerned that date may be pushed out by state lawmakers.  

In a lawsuit filed against Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker’s office, Dos Santos contends that the closure of all gyms March 24 as part of nonessential businesses is unlawful and unconstitutional and caused his business to lose millions of dollars. 

As part of the lawsuit, Dos Santos is asking for reparations, as well as the green light for all of his 11 Gym World locations to be allowed to open immediately. 

“We had to take legal action,” Dos Santos said. “We had to protect our business.”

Dos Santos told The Sun that the five Best Fitness gyms in Massachusetts were responsible for about $15 million in annual revenue when open and employed about 310 workers. When the gyms closed their doors to their roughly 25,000 customers in March, they laid off staff and immediately suspended all monthly member billings. 

Rent for the five buildings, which still needs to be paid, cost a total of about $135,000 a month.

“But how much do you think a person can pay every month and not make any revenue?” Dos Santos said. “At some point, the rubber hits the road. Are we far away from that? Yeah, because we have good business people and a good business sense. But this is hurting me and my family.”

Baker has identified six things that will determine how fast his state can reopen, including the positive test rate of COVID-19, the number of deaths from the virus, the number of people hospitalized with the virus, and the health care system’s readiness, testing capacity and contact tracing capabilities.

At a press conference last Friday, Baker said that positive test rates have fallen 92 percent since mid-April and hospitalization rates have decreased 72 percent over the same period.

Massachusetts is currently in the second phase of its reopening, which includes indoor dining and in-store retail shopping. Indoor gyms are part of phase three, which was on track to begin June 29 but has since been pushed out to July 6 and possibly longer. 

“It’s a financial struggle,” Dos Santos said. “We have to have a date of opening. We can’t just keep on pushing it back, and we can’t go without revenue forever. … People can sit inside, have dinner at a table with no mask, but you can’t allow people to workout in a 40,000-square-foot gym?”

As part of his lawsuit, Dos Santos challenges Baker’s classification of gyms as nonessential.

“A lot of people live longer, healthier lives more prosperous lives, because they can work out and stay healthy longer,” Dos Santos said. “Maybe (Baker) doesn’t think it’s essential, but that’s not true. It’s essential piece of peoples’ lives."

 

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