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New Jersey gym reopens in violation of stay-at-home order

A gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, reopened Monday in defiance of the state's stay-at-home order. A crowd of supporters stood outside Atilis Gym as it opened its doors at 8 a.m.

Co-owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti were issued a court summons for violating Governor Phil Murphy's stay-at-home order, but the business remained open throughout the day. Customers were issued warnings. The gym had been closed since New Jersey's coronavirus lockdown measures ordering non-essential businesses to close went into effect in mid-March.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement Tuesday that "businesses like the gym in Bellmawr and their patrons will be held accountable for violating the Governor's orders."

"When individual business owners substitute their own judgment for science, their decisions threaten public health and safety, undermine all the progress we've made together to date, and are fundamentally unfair to the great majority of businesses and business owners playing by the rules and doing their part to keep us safe," Grewal continued.

The gym instituted a number of safety measures ahead Monday's reopening. According to their Facebook page, the gym was only operating at 20% capacity, and only current members were allowed inside. Temperatures were taken upon entry, and anybody with a temperature above 100.4 degrees was turned away. Once inside, patrons were required to wear face masks "unless you are in the middle of your set" and practicing social distancing. In addition, the showers and lockers were "off-limits," and the gym was not providing shared equipment such as mats and chalk.

Grewal noted that even with with the added precautions, there was still a danger of spreading the disease. The AG pointed out that in an enclosed space such as an indoor gym, "the possibility of an asymptomatic customer passing a temperature check, working out in a closed environment, and infecting others remains very real."

Trumbetti and Smith said they feel the stay-at-home order is unconstitutional and even had a lawyer draft a letter to Murphy, CBS Philly reports. Murphy addressed the planned reopening of the gym at a news conference last week, saying, "They're out of compliance and that's not going to be tolerated."  

"Everything we're doing is constitutional and it's our rights and we've not broken any laws and an executive order isn't a law anyway," Trumbetti told CBS Philly. "Even if I was in violation of the executive order, I truly don't believe I am based on the verbiage he has put in his own executive orders." 

Virus Outbreak Defiant Gym
A police officer issues Atilis Gym co-owners Ian Smith, left, and Frank Trumbetti summons outside their gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey. Matt Rourke / AP

Video taken in the gym's parking lot Monday also showed Trumbetti saying confidently that the citation he was issued would be thrown out because it is "unconstitutional." A crowd of supporters, many of whom were not practicing social distancing, cheered. At least one man could be seen taking his mask off to loudly cheer.

Smith and Trumbetti announced their plans to reopen the gym in a pair of Facebook videos last week. "We are proposing an organized peaceful reopening of our state, not just our business," Trumbetti said. "We truly believe that if we don't do this, in the end, we'll have zero rights and no say in what happens."

Trumbetti called on all non-essential business owners to reopen at 8 a.m. Monday and asked people to gather in the gym's parking lot to show support.

Virus Outbreak-Defiant Gym
People gather in support of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr. Matt Rourke / AP

Smith cited a lack of economic aid as part of the reason they were reopening.

"As we sat home, sheltered in place, we watched politicians bicker and bumble their way through relief packages that were vague, riddled with pork spending and secondary agendas," Smith said. "Unfortunately, for far too many small businesses and individuals, that aid has been nonexistent or fallen disastrously short."

The owners say members' payments are still frozen, so they aren't making any money by reopening.

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