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July 20, 2020

Atilis Gym allowed to stay open if it follows New Jersey's COVID-19 guidelines; Owners say they won't

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Atilis Gym Bellmawr StreetView/Google Maps

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr was found not to be in contempt for reopening while New Jersey has restrictions on health clubs because of the coronavirus. The judge said the gym needs to follow the rules, but its owners already are talking about breaking them.

A Camden County gym that defied New Jersey's shutdown orders may remain open as long as it adheres to the state's restrictions on fitness centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the victory could be shortlived because the owners of Atilis Gym already are planning to break the rules, they said.

Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy ruled Monday night that Atilis Gym in Bellmawr was not in contempt of a previous court order. But his ruling ordered the gym to follow the state's rules or face closure again. 

Those restrictions limit the indoor use of fitness centers to individual training sessions held in separate rooms. Unrestricted public use of gyms remains banned. Outdoor spaces can reopen with social distancing measures in place. 

The decision was Atilis Gym's first court victory – albeit limited in scope – in its ongoing legal battle with the state. Despite expecting further litigation, the owners took to social media to celebrate the decision – in explicit fashion.


Posted by Atilis Gym, Bellmawr, NJ on Monday, July 20, 2020

The decision "expressly invited" Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli to file another contempt of court motion if the gym violates New Jersey's COVID-19 guidelines for gyms, the Courier Post reported.

Co-owner Frank Trumbetti told The Inquirer that the gym is operating at 25% capacity, but it will not require members to wear faces masks. The gym also has "loosened" social distancing requirements but is requiring members to have their temperatures checked, use hand sanitizer and sign waivers before working out.

New Jersey gyms currently are not permitted to open indoor spaces to members, even at reduced capacities, but Trumbetti vowed that the gym will not comply with the state's rule.

"That is the definition of oppressive restrictions," Trumbetti told the Inquirer. "The bottom line is, we are not going to comply with their non-laws." 

Atilis Gym reopened on May 18, defying the state's shutdown orders and prompting national media attention. It remained open for three days before it was shut down by state health officials.

A revised court order allowed a portion of the gym to reopen on June 15, so two retail outlets that share it's space in the Bellmawr shopping center – an apparel shop and a nutritional supplements store – could resume operations. The revised order was issued on the same day that New Jersey allowed in-person retail shopping to resume. 

During an inspection last week by the Camden County's health department, officials found that the gym failed to provide staff with gloves and masks, exceeded capacity limits and did not implement social distancing. 

Atilis Gym also had covered its window, blocking anyone from seeing into the building from the outside and permitted people to work out.

The New Jersey health department responded by filing a motion alleging the gym was in contempt of court. Frank Trumbetti and Atilis Gym's co-owner Ian Smith received the lawsuit from the state on Friday evening. The lawsuit sought to shut down the gym and change its locks, Smith said in a pair of videos posted to the Atilis Gym Facebook page.

Expecting the court to rule in favor of the state, Smith and Trumbetti threatened to remove the doors to stop the state from changing the locks. They also pledged to open the facility 24/7 until they were arrested or the state backed down. 

Governor Murphy is coming to change our locks again tomorrow - we will be taking our doors off of the hinges and Frank...

Posted by Atilis Gym, Bellmawr, NJ on Sunday, July 19, 2020

7/18 Atilis Gym Contempt of Court Murphy and the Department of Health are charging us with Contempt of Court. They are...

Posted by Atilis Gym, Bellmawr, NJ on Saturday, July 18, 2020

Atilis Gym began holding workouts outdoors in June, but it reopened the indoor portion of the gym on July 4 before the state allowed.

Smith and Trumbetti tried to sue the state in federal court, but a judge dismissed the case last month, saying he would not interfere with New Jersey enforcing its COVID-19 restrictions fearing it could lead to a spike in cases and have "terrible consequences for society."

The facility then filed an appeal in state court, but Smith said that they were not granted an injunction.

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