South Jersey gym at center of conflict over COVID-19 restrictions has business license revoked

Atilis Gym in Bellmawr

(NBC10)

The business license for Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, Camden County, has been revoked.

The Bellmawr Borough Council, in an emergency meeting, voted 5-1 in favor of revocation. The gym has fought to reopen in spite of Gov. Phil Murphy’s orders that gyms be closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. While some businesses have been allowed to reopen, gyms in New Jersey have not received a green light to do so.

Attorney John McCann representing the owners of Atilis Gym making the case before the Bellmawr Borough Council to not revoke the gym’s business license. (screen grab)

John McCann, an attorney for the gym’s owners, told the council that closing the gym would serve no public purpose and challenged them to stand up for their community, pushing them to demand evidence from the governor.

“I would demand the science,” McCann said, “I would say, ‘Governor, show me that this gym is a danger.’”

McCann signaled that court challenges will continue beyond the revocation of the license. Ian Smith, one of the owners of the gym, was present during the meeting, but he did not offer comment. He left shortly after the council vote with McCann.

A public comment period took place after the vote. Some made their remarks in person; others participated virtually through a conference call.

The owners of Atilis Gym have become folk heroes to those who opposed Murphy’s pandemic restrictions. The gym closed in March as orders from Murphy were being signed. “It’s do or die for us,” Smith told NBC 10 at the time. “Our business is essentially being strangled to death.”

The gym reopened May 18 before 200 supporters and a live national broadcast on Fox News Channel. It was closed down three days later by the state. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a closure notice that the gym was posing a threat to the public.

Gym owners sought a temporary restraining order in federal court as they pursued a constitutional challenge against Murphy’s coronavirus restrictions. In June, a federal judge ruled against them.

Smith and Frank Trumbetti, the gym’s co-owner, were arrested and charged with contempt and other charges in July. McCann reminded the council that his clients still have a pending criminal case related to the charges.

“I cannot see, for the life of me, why your community has brought charges,” he said. “You said you’re afforded the opportunity to be heard, while they have a Fifth Amendment right to protect if they come before YOUR court, which I believe will be conflicted after today.”

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