As businesses fight for survival during the coronavirus pandemic, one gym is taking a stand against their state’s stay-at-home order, which they feel is against their “constitutional rights.”

In a case that has garnered national attention and has fundraised over $80k for legal fees, New Jersey lockdown concerns enter new territory, as struggling businesses prepare to challenge it.

After being closed for two months, Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, the owners of Atilis gym based in New Jersey’s Bellmawr County, reopened on May 18 with a sea of supporters behind them. 

Police later came to issue the owners a citation and a summons to appear in court but did nothing else. The following day, police gave several members fines as they left the gym and one member was arrested for not giving his name to the police.

The citations and summons, which could run up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months in jail, continued on for three days straight as the gym remained open. On May 21, the NJ Health Department closed the gym due to a sewage backup that caused members to evacuate the previous day. 

After reopening again on May 22, the case was brought to a state judge, who mandated that the gym remain closed until New Jersey reopens. 

Smith took to the gym’s instagram, calling Gov. Phil Murphy a “slimeball” for taking the issue to the state. According to Smith, their lawyers filed an emergency injunction on May 26 in federal court.

Murphy issued the stay-at-home order on March 21st, which included indefinite closure of  gyms, salons, movie theatres and other businesses that were considered non-essential. This was to last until the lockdown ended, but Smith felt there was no end in sight. Several days before the gym’s reopening, Smith told Fox News he was prepared for the ramifications of going against the state.

“We are prepared for any and all consequences. Our actions on Monday are going to be grounded in the ideals of civil disobedience. What we intend to showcase is that we reject the premise of essential versus nonessential businesses,” said Smith. 

“Anything at Walmart can do with hundreds, if not thousands of people passing through the stores every day, touching everything in sight, a small business whether it be a restaurant, a gym, a hair salon or anything else, can replicate those things. We can go above and beyond and we plan to do that.”

Smith told Fox that he and Trumbetti placed measures to assure the safety of gym-goers, which included taking temperatures at entrances, spacing out all gym equipment six feet apart, rotating workout intervals and having members keep their masks on at all times, except when lifting weights. 

Supporters of Smith and Trumbetti are glad that they are going against the grain. 

“I admire the strength and courage the owners of Atilis have. They are doing the right thing. We were supposed to be closed for two weeks. Two and a half months later, here we are, still on lockdown,” Liz Lewis of Ocean County expressed to Scriberr News.  

Lewis said there are “small business owners who can’t put food on their tables” and added reopening the economy is necessary “even if it’s with a few restrictions.”

“We have had our constitutional rights ripped from underneath our feet and it’s time we get it back. Murphy needs to finally start doing what’s right for the people,” said Lewis. 

Facebook groups like New Jersey for Freedom and Open New Jersey stand in solidarity with Atilis as well.

Ayla Wolf is a Burlington county resident at the forefront of Open New Jersey. She rallied at the Atilis gym reopening and across the state with the group, protesting the lockdown in Trenton, Redbank and Middletown. 

The group was waiting for a business that would have the bravery to open first, so when Atilis Gym and Newell Strength gym opened on the same day, they rallied behind them. 

“All business is essential, all Americans are essential and liberty is essential. Our Constitution is in great peril right now and closing everything down sets a precedent for a future that we do not want to be a part of,” Wolf told Scriberr News. 

Wolf believes the curve is flattened and the death toll numbers “do not live up to the horrendous projections we were given.” 

“Businesses can open with common sense, safety and regulations that they can decide for themselves, without the help of a committee that the governor has been taking advice from, made up of self-interested pharmaceutical executives or bankers with their own agendas,” said Wolf. 

Wolf has two children with special needs who she feels aren’t receiving the education they deserve at home, and can’t comprehend the necessity of masks due to their sensory issues. 

“They cry because they’re lonely and they want to be back in school. It’s ridiculous for them not to be able to have an opportunity to be educated at this point. Our rights are only as good as the people who represent us, and we as a people are outraged that we have no representation whatsoever. That’s why we fight.”

Scriberr News reached out to Atilis Gym and owner Ian Smith, but they did not respond to our request for comment by press deadline. 

Written ByYayonah Bangura

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