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The owners of a New Jersey gym who famously defied orders to close the fitness center during the coronavirus pandemic have now been hit with more than $1.2 million in fines — but are staying open as a “f–k” you to Gov. Phil Murphy.
The Atilis Gym in Bellmawr became an anti-lockdown posterchild in May after it repeatedly refused to adhere to the Garden State’s orders to close.
Now, the gym has had more than 60 citations totaling more than $1.2 million — despite not having a single infection linked to the business after more than 83,000 visits in that time, one of the co-owners, Ian Smith, told Fox News.
Smith sent a clear message to Murphy and other state officials in a video shared by TMZ in which he vowed to keep open — filmed without a mask in the middle of his packed gym.
“Gov. Murphy will see this video and fine us $15k for it,” reads one of a series of flashcards a smiling Smith holds up in the video.
“But … free men don’t ask permission. Or for forgiveness,” it continues.
“F–k you, Murphy,” a male voice then says loudly in the video after Smith walks off camera.
Smith told Fox that the governor has “thrown everything he possibly could to shut us down.”
“He has arrested my partner and I, given us over 60 citations, some of them criminal. He fines us $15,497.76 per day for every day we’re in operation,” he said.
“Our fines are totaling over $1.2 million, but every single day, Frank and I open our gym,” he said.
He called the damage being caused to a small business “a complete tragedy.”
“I would go so far as to call it criminal,” he said.
“You are putting people out of business for good. You are making them reliant on big government. You are taking away their civil liberties under the guise of pretending like you care about public health.”
As well as keeping open when gyms had to be closed in the state, Atilis also defiantly refuses to mandate masks for its gym-goers.
“All of our other safety measures have kept our members safe,” he said, noting “83,000 visits and no outbreaks linked to the facility.”
Murphy’s office told TMZ it had “nothing to add.”