(WJW) — Owners of some Ohio fitness centers are already preparing a fight to stay open, if Gov. Mike DeWine shuts them down next week. Earlier this year, they filed a lawsuit over the state health department’s “Stay Safe” order, and a judge ruled in their favor.
“Am I willing to listen to the new guideline, what they say and if we can make any changes? Absolutely. Will we shut down? That’s something we’ll have to see,” said Alex Dudas, owner of AIM Performance Training in Mentor.
He says the statewide shutdown at the start of the coronavirus pandemic this spring was devastating to his business.
“For the first couple weeks, we understood, until we got more of an idea about COVID,” Dudas said.
“We will be forced to close restaurants, bars and fitness centers,” said DeWine during a statewide address Wednesday
DeWine said he will consider next week, if shutdowns are needed to fight the latest wave of COVID cases.
“I don’t think he should shut down anyone’s livelihoods,” Dudas said.
In May, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of nearly three dozen Ohio gym owners. It claimed then state health director, Dr. Amy Acton, exceeded her authority by keeping gyms and fitness centers closed while other businesses were allowed to reopen.
A Lake County judge ruled the order was “unconstitutional” and prevented health departments from enforcing penalties for non-compliance.
Dudas says their attorney is preparing for another legal fight.
“He will do whatever’s possible, so that we can stay open and operate, regardless of what happens,” he said.
In a statement, executive director Maurice Thompson tells Fox 8:
1. Nothing has changed: Neither the Governor nor the Health Department maintain the lawful authority to unilaterally shut down an entire industry.
2. For that reason, gym owners and members are entitled to and should feel free to disregard any shutdown order. This also applies to restaurants and bars, though they may have some unique licensing issues to worry about.
3. Neither the Health Department nor the Governor has identified a single Ohioan, much less an exact number of people, who have been harmed from the virus due to their presence at a gym, even though gyms have been open since May 20. I am not sure of whether this is true for bars or restaurants.
“People are not gonna follow orders, they’re gonna hang out with their family, they’re gonna have Thanksgiving, the majority of people are still gonna do all those things, so why close down one thing that’s keeping you healthy?” said Dudas.
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