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August 19, 2020

Atilis Gym ordered to pay daily fines for violating New Jersey’s COVID-19 restrictions

Superior Court ruling permits state to block fitness center’s doors

Courts Gyms
Atilis Gym Bellmawr Google/Street View

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, Camden County has engaged in an ongoing legal dispute with New Jersey over the state's COVID-19 business restrictions.

If Atilis Gym continues to stay open, it's going to cost its owners a pretty penny. 

The owners of the Bellmawr, Camden County fitness center must pay nearly $124,000 in fines for defying New Jersey's coronavirus restrictions, Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy ruled Tuesday. They also must cover the state's legal fees – another $10,000.

For every day that the gym remains open, its owners will be fined another $15,500, according to Lougy's ruling. It also allows the state to implement a new barricade to the gym's entrance "as expeditiously as possible." 

"This decision recognizes that gym owners – like everyone else – must do their part and follow the law," a spokesperson for Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. 

"As we’ve said before, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, yet these defendants have defied multiple court orders designed to protect the public. We hope that today’s order puts an end to this dispute."

New Jersey has not permitted gyms to reopen indoor operations. Only outdoor workouts or private individual instruction is permitted.

The owners of the Atilis Gym, Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, have engaged in a public fight to keep the fitness center open amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

The gym has held some indoor workouts, against the state's orders, since early July. It initially started holding outdoor workouts in June.

Smith, 33, called the latest court order "a lot of nonsense" in a video posted to the facility’s Instagram account. He and Trumbetti, 51, likely will be arrested again because both refuse to leave the gym’s premises, he said.

Smith also claimed that the owners haven't received due process, alleging they haven't been permitted to speak during the court hearings. 

Atilis Gym first reopened on May 18, defying the state's business shutdown orders and prompting national media attention. The gym remained open for three days before it was shut down by state health officials, beginning a legal battle that has dragged on ever since.

Lougy previously ruled that the gym could remain open if it followed New Jersey’s COVID-19 guidelines. The owners indicated they had no intention of doing so. 

Camden County health inspectors found the gym failed to provide staff with gloves and masks, exceeded capacity limits and did not implement social distancing. The gym also had covered its windows, blocking anyone from seeing into the building from the outside.

Lougy then ordered Atilis Gym to close, but a number of people were observed using the facility. The order had permitted the health department to place a lock on the doors, but Smith and Trumbetti removed the door from its hinges.

In late July, Smith and Trumbetti were charged with contempt, obstruction and violation of a disaster control act for defying a previous court order, issued by Lougy, to shut down in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines. Both men were arrested after refusing to leave the fitness center despite a contempt of court order against them.

They then reopened their fitness center earlier this month by kicking down the boards placed over the entrance. Their actions resulted in a new disorderly conduct summons issued by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. 

Last week, Bellmawr Borough Council voted to strip Atilis Gym of its business license.

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