The Bellmawr council in Camden County, N.J., voted 5 to 1 to rescind the mercantile license of Atilis Gym on Tuesday for defying a state order to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The decision came amid a monthslong standoff between the gym’s owners and Gov. Phil Murphy over the importance of limiting the spread of the virus or the livelihood of local businesses,” Fox News reported.
The co-owners of the gym, Frank Trumbetti, 51, and Ian Smith, 33, were arrested last month after repeatedly ignoring the state order, charged with contempt, obstruction and violating a disaster control act.
Smith, who had previously vowed to “not back down under any circumstances,” took to Instagram after the vote to share that it was an all Democrat council.
“In a clear political move, the all democrat town council followed their orders from Gov. Murphy to revoke our business license,” he said. “Zero evidence was put forth to support the claim that @atilisgymbellmawr poses any threat to the public.”
“When asked, they ignored the request to hold off on the vote until evidence can be put forth,” the caption continued. “They did not allow the public to speak. Our fight does not stop here. Please share and repost. Let’s hold these politicians accountable for their actions.”
The small business owners have had the full weight of the state government come down on them, simply for trying to open their doors.
The state Attorney General’s office was recommending fines of up to $10,000 a day and possible imprisonment for Trumbetti and Smith, according to NJ.com.
“Atilis Gym’s brazen conduct is abhorrent to an organized judicial system, jeopardizes the public health and the safety of New Jerseyans, and must not be tolerated,” stated the Attorney General’s office. “It is clear that additional sanctions and relief are necessary to coerce Atilis Gym’s compliance with the court’s order.”
In a heartfelt post earlier this month, Smith reminded followers of a critical factor at play here, which is that the business is how they provide for their families.
“I hate the fact that it has to come to this,” he said in the post, which included a video of the two kicking open the boarded up entrance to their gym.
“Governor Murphy can portray us in whatever villainous way he wants, but our hands are forced here and that’s his fault,” Smith explained. “We are over 4 months into an economic shutdown that was supposed to be 14 days. It is time to end this and resume life in a safe and responsible manner.”
Pointing out that small businesses aren’t solely responsible for spreading the virus, the owner concluded, “You will not trample on our rights and you will not destroy our lives. We will not back down. Ever.”
The saga began back in May, when the owners first reopened, to the cheers of a small crowd of supporters.
“We made the decision to open,” Smith said at the time, in an appearance on Fox & Friends, adding that “we’re sick and tired of having our rights trampled on.”
He also pointed out the double standard at play, where “big box” stores like Walmart were allowed to remain open while small businesses like his were forced to close.