UPDATE: The two gyms sued by the state Attorney General’s Office have closed.
SEATTLE – Tuesday the Washington State Attorney General filed lawsuits against gym owners apparently defying Governor Inslee’s order that requires non-essential businesses remain closed during this pandemic.
One gym is in Puyallup and the other in Arlington.
The lawsuit accuses gym owners of unfair business practices and potentially spreading the coronavirus.
But the owner of the North Sound gym insists he will stay open and contends his civil rights supersede current regulations.
“I feel safer coming here than the grocery store,” said patron Kim Cunningham, who supports PA Fitness.
Inslee’s phased approach to reopening Washington’s economy is staggered. That means industries will reopen in a series of phases. For now, gyms are in the third phase. Among other criteria, gyms won’t be allowed to allow more than 50% capacity.
PA Fitness co-owner Mike Jellison claims he has a right to bypass the phases altogether.
“We got 60 people in here, operating under CDC guidelines,” he said.
The South Sound gym targeted by the state is Northwest Fitness Company.
The complaint alleges the owners violated Inslee’s orders even they claim the workouts are a form of protest.
Those targeted by the state’s lawsuit in Puyallup did not immediately return repeated calls for comment.
In today’s filing, Attorney General Bob Ferguson dismissed assertions by some gym owners, claiming both are "endangering the lives of others,” and they must close to ensure "the market is fair for all,” a nod to all the other businesses abiding by Inslee’s order.
“There’s just no reason why certain people would think they’re kind of special and they have certain rights others do not,” Governor Jay Inslee said during a Tuesday press conference.
Jellison says he will take clients' temperatures, clean equipment and take other steps to ensure everyone is safe.
But, the governor and attorney general insist on science that says Covid-19 often spreads before symptoms appear and can reach those who don’t patronize the gyms defying state order.
Regardless, Jellison vows to stay open.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to continue,” he said. “We’re talking about our constitutional rights.”
The city of Arlington told the gym it could face penalties, like having its license revoked, but would rather work with the owner to come up with best practices when phase 3 allows gyms to open legally.