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Two gyms in violation of stay-at-home order forced to close due to lawsuit

Two gyms that were defying Washington state’s stay-at-home order have shut down temporarily, but say their fight is not over.

Mike Jellison, owner of Arlington’s PA Fitness, told KIRO Radio he could not open Wednesday because he faced a $2,000 fine for each person allowed to workout.

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“We were six feet apart, temperature checks at the doors, bottles of hospital-grade disinfectant for everybody that came in, [kept capacity] below 30 percent of max, I mean, we did all the guidelines,” he said.

When gyms can reopen, Jellison says the state guidelines will make it nearly impossible for any of fitness center or gym to be able to turn a profit.

“You’re going to have a minimal amount of people in there, and you have to take classes for this virus, and it’s just going to put more people out of business,” Jellison said. “They’ve got to rethink the process.”

Northwest Fitness in Puyallup was also open despite the governor’s orders. The gym posted a photo on Facebook of two police cars in its empty parking lot Wednesday.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced consumer protection lawsuits against the two gyms, saying their open doors and continued operations in violation of Gov. Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation gives them an unfair advantage over competitors that remain closed and endangers public health.

Both businesses were given multiple warnings, and received cease and desist letters on Friday as final warnings to cease operations within 48 hours or face a lawsuit. Despite these warnings, the gyms continued to operate, so the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the businesses and their owners.

A court can impose monetary penalties of up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act. These lawsuits are civil actions and do not prelude criminal charges by local prosecutors if warranted.

The City of Arlington notified PA Fitness owners that the city has the right to revoke their business license, impose penalties, or seek a court order, and offered to assist the owners in accessing relief programs and education about how to reopen when it is safe to do so. Arlington does not have any enforcement action against PA Fitness.

“I understand where this business owner is coming from,” said Paul Ellis, City Administrator.  “Economic hardship is real, but so are the health risks of this virus. We cannot just pick and choose which laws we are going to follow.”

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report. 

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