Photo via Ian Smith Facebook

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on American small businesses. Millions of small business owners have been faced with the harsh reality of having their businesses shut down and those they employed to be met with unexpected unemployment. 

According to Yelp data, 60% of closed businesses have permanently closed, representing almost 100,000 business closures.

Ian Smith, 34, co-owner of The Atilis Gym Bellmawr located in South Jersey has been making national headlines and the rounds on social media by choosing to keep his business open during the stay-at-home orders since May.

“First it was ‘15 days to slow the spread’ and now we’re way past that. It’s important now more than ever that we take a public stand against government overreach,” Smith told Scriberr News.

He said business owners are scared “and rightly so” about the executive orders. 

Like many business owners across the state, Smith is fed up with the unfair enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions from government officials. As of date of this publication, Smith owes over $1 million in fines that he does not intend on paying back. According to Smith, he is fined $15,497.76 per day for every day for keeping his gym open.

“They’re living a luxurious lifestyle from their ivory towers telling you what you can and cannot do in a very unconstitutional manner,” Smith said of government officials. 

“Those in a position of power aren’t even following their own restrictions. You’re going to lose your business if you don’t open it,” he said.

In a video shared earlier this week on Instagram, Smith sent a message to Gov. Murphy and other state officials that he will keep his gym open and will not force any of his members to wear a mask. 

Smith argues that the gym takes all the necessary protocols to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus such as proper sanitation and social distancing. He does not enforce mask mandates because “masks reduce the intake of oxygen and increase the intake of carbon dioxide which can increase someone’s breathing rate and reduce their cognitive function.” 

Smith said officials in the state are mandating cloth masks, but since he’s not enforcing gym members to wear one, he’s being penalized up to $15,000 in fines per day.

As of the date of this publication, no cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to his facility. 

Smith has recently launched an online directory for small business owners that are choosing to stay open in defiance of their state lockdowns. The small business online directory will not only provide those that visit the site with listings of American owned businesses but will also assist small business owners with the necessary legal resources they need to stay open and afloat. 

“America is a country that was built on defiance. Defiance, not obedience, is the American answer to overbearing authority,” Smith said.

“The American spirit has been awoken. I will personally make sure you don’t get re-elected,” Smith said of New Jersey officials. “Your attempts to sabotage the middle class and your personal attacks on small businesses will not be forgotten.”

Written ByEmma Jimenez

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