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Lockdown-defiant NJ gym sues governor, state in federal court

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The defiant New Jersey gym that was repeatedly shuttered for violating the state’s coronavirus lockdown is suing the state in federal court.

The owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr charged that Gov. Phil Murphy, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and other Jersey officials violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to close up shop for three months, putting their business on the verge of collapse.

“If allowed to stand, now 67 days after the first executive order and over 40 million Americans unemployed, defendants’ orders will not only continue to violate plaintiff’s rights under both the US Constitution and New Jersey Constitution but will continue to inflict massive and widespread economic damage to plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit, filed Monday.

Atilis Gym owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti defied Murphy’s order last week and opened their doors for a limited number of clients — with social-distancing and other measures to ward against the spread of COVID-19.

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State inspectors cited the gym for violating the order, but the owners continued to open for business.

On Saturday, state health officials shut the gym and changed the locks on the door, Atilis attorney James Mermigis said.



“This is a disaster, and everybody needs to open up their business,” Mermigis told The Post Wednesday. “We need to get this country going again because if we don’t get it anytime soon we’re gonna reach a point of no return. And I commend these gym owners for taking a stance against Gov. Murphy and saying enough is enough.”

“We can’t be treated like children, like babies told, ‘go to your room and stay in your room and don’t come out until I tell you to come out,’” he added. “People come to American for freedom, not to be told to shut down your shop and go into your room.”

Mermigis said Atilis was operating at 20 percent capacity as it is, and Smith and Trumbetti just want to stay afloat until the lockdown is lifted.

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According to the lawsuit, the gym claims the state’s decision to classify it is a “non-essential” business was “manifestly irrational and arbitrary.”

They’re asking the state to lift the lockdown order and to compensate them for any incurred costs and attorney’s fees.

A spokesperson for Murphy’s office said Wednesday that the state does not comment on pending litigation.

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