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May 20, 2020

Camden County gym ordered to close by New Jersey health officials

GoFundMe campaign established to benefit owners, members defying COVID-19 shutdown order

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Atilis Gym Bellmawr StreetView/Google Maps

The owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, Camden County have been cited for three straight days after reopening their facility against state orders.

UPDATE (5/21/2020): Atilis Gym was shutdown the by the New Jersey Health Department on Thursday morning after defying the state's stay-at-home orders. 

Health officials ordered the Bellmawr gym to remain closed until further notice for not abiding to Gov. Phil Murphy's executive orders, according to 6ABC. No one, including members of the gym, are allowed to enter the facility during this time.

Owner Ian A. Smith became the center of controversy after a photo showed him using a megaphone that had a sticker for the New Jersey European Heritage Association, a known white supremacist group. Smith denied any affiliation with the group on Thursday. He said the megaphone was handed to him during Monday's rally to reopen the gym. The group had also attended the event "uninvited," according to Smith's lawyer James Mermigis.

The original report is below. 

The owners of Atilis Gym were cited for the third straight day after they again opened their Bellmawr facility, defying New Jersey's COVID-19 shutdown restrictions.

Police charged Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti with making a public nuisance Wednesday, state officials said. 

All non-essential businesses, including gyms, have been ordered closed since March 16 as part of New Jersey's efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Though some restrictions have been loosened, Gov. Phil Murphy said reopening indoor facilities remains too risky. He reiterated that solving the public health crisis takes priority over fixing its economic toll.

Five gym members have been cited for violating the state's stay-at-home order, according to Bellmawr Police. Two other people have been charged with organizing a protest in violation of the order and obstructing the administration of the law.

Police have indicated they are looking to implement tougher punishments to reinforce Murphy's executive order.  

A GoFundMe campaign has been started to cover the legal fees of the owners and the gym members who were arrested for using the facility. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had raised over $42,000 from more than 1,100 donors. It was launched Monday with a goal of $100,000.

Any money not used to cover legal fees will be given to other businesses who have been cited for reopening their doors, organizer Adam Sikora wrote. Any gym staffers and members who have been ticketed or arrested can be represented by the gym's legal team.

“From the bottom of our hearts we thank every one of you for supporting us through this tough time — and we are thankful for any funds donated to us,” Sikora wrote.

The Law Offices of Jef Henninger has offered pro bono services for Atilis Gym members and employees facing legal proceedings due to their defiance. The New Jersey-based law firm also has offered free legal services to businesses in Ocean, Monmouth and Passaic counties that are planning to reopen in spite of Murphy's executive order.

Businesses in New Jersey are starting to open in defiance of the Governor's order. If you plan to open your business,...

Posted by Law Offices of Jef Henninger, Esq. on Monday, May 18, 2020

Smith announced he would reopen his gym during an interview with FOX News' Tucker Carlson last week. He kept his word by reopening the facility Monday to a large crowd of supporters.

Retail businesses are now permitted to provide curbside pickup and delivery services. Customers will not be allowed inside stores and purchases must be done in advance by phone or online. New Jersey’s stay-at-home order remains in effect until further notice.

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