The owners of the embattled New Jersey Atilis Gym busted down the boarded-up front door of their New Jersey business Saturday morning, again defying Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ian Smith, 33, and Frank Trumbetti, 51, are engaged in a monthslong legal fight with the state of New Jersey to keep their Bellmawr-based gym open during the COVID-19 pandemic and must now contend with the threat of their business license getting pulled.
On Aug. 4, Smith and Trumbetti will face a hearing before the mayor and the council of the Borough of Bellmawr regarding the consideration of whether to revoke the gym’s business license.
Smith and Trumbetti have also been charged with 4th-degree contempt, obstruction, and violation of a disaster and control act. They face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
“After Atilis refused to comply with multiple criminal citations and Superior Court orders, including a contempt-of-court order issued Friday, today, law enforcement entered the premises to ensure closure and to abate the public health risks,” said a spokesperson for New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “As the attorney general previously said, the state wishes it had not come to this, but the gym refused to comply even with a contempt order.”
The owners of Atilis Gym say the state of New Jersey is only going after their gym because they defied Murphy.
“We’re being targeted. It’s very clear that he’s on a mission to destroy our business, because we dared to defy him,” Smith told the Washington Examiner on Saturday morning, moments after he and Trumbetti reopened their gym. “There are plenty of other businesses that are open and operating, just like we are defying the shutdown. But Gov. Murphy has a personal vendetta against us, and it couldn’t be more clear than it is today.”
Atilis Gym first made national news when Smith and Trumbetti reopened their gym against Murphy’s lockdown orders on May 18 and publicized their act of defiance on Fox News. Four days later, the New Jersey Department of Health mandated the gym be closed down indefinitely, and the health department changed the locks.
However, the owners, who had been hunkering down inside the gym during this legal battle, defied the order, removing the doors from their hinges and refused to leave.
Authorities arrested both men and boarded up their facility on Thursday, after which they were released. The gym remained closed until Saturday morning when both owners kicked through the boards and reopened the place.
“Murphy has weaponized every public organization against us. So far, he’s arrested us. He’s given us 18 criminal charges. He’s weaponized the court systems and the health department against us. The health department has never stepped foot in that building, and we were closed,” Smith explained. “No, other business in the state of New Jersey has taken the precautions that we have. We have a 15-point safety program in place that we’ve been very public about.”
“We’re the only business in the state to be punished in a way that we have, including locking our door and changing our locks on us, arresting us and boarding up our doors, so it’s very clear that he is on a mission to get us,” he added.
Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy in Camden ruled on July 21 that Atilis Gym must comply with Murphy’s executive order that restricts indoor gym use exclusively to individual sessions in separate rooms.
But Smith called the limitations from the executive order placed on gyms in the state to be “oppressive,” “arbitrary,” and “not backed by any science.” Both he and Trumbetti promised not to “comply with their non-laws” at the time the order was released.