Washington State Sues Gyms for Opening During Pandemic

SEATTLE (CN) — Washington state sued two gyms for opening in violation of Governor Jay Inslee’s Covid-19 stay-at-home order.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said both business owners have received multiple warnings and final cease and desist letters on Friday to close within 48 hours or face a lawsuit.

Ferguson filed the suits Tuesday when the owners refused to comply.

The state sued Michael J. Baker and Shane D. Cowhig of Fitness 101 Team Puyallup, also known as Northwest Fitness Co. in Puyallup, in Pierce County Superior Court and Michael and Richard Jellison of Power Alley Fitness, also known as PA Fitness, in Arlington, in Snohomish County Superior Court under the Consumer Protection Act alleging unfair business practices.

Ferguson said the owners are gaining an unfair advantage over competing gyms that are following the governor’s order.

“We understand the financial impact of Stay Home, Stay Healthy on small businesses, but that does not exempt you from the requirement to remain closed. The Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is necessary for public health. The Covid-19 virus spreads easily from person to person and the only way to control it, and save lives, is to maintain social distancing, including closing nonessential businesses. By keeping your business open, you are endangering the lives of your customers and your community.

“Opening your business when competing fitness centers have closed as required by law to protect the health of all Washingtonians gives you an unfair advantage over your competitors. In order to level the playing field and ensure the market is fair for all, you must close your doors,” the cease and desist letter says.

Michael Jellison told the Seattle Times that Power Alley Fitness wasn’t making money by staying open, but it was the right thing to do for his clients.

“This is our Constitution. This is our rights,” he said.

He said the gym has taken numerous precautions, including taking the temperature of everyone who enters, spacing exercise equipment 6 feet apart and limiting occupancy to 25% of normal.

“We’ve had 4,000 people in here in the last seven days, and no one has been over temperature,” Jellison said. “We’re still trying to find that unicorn of someone who has the disease.”

Northwest Fitness Company’s website says “We are not Open!” but “protest hours” are available for members to come work out.

The gym will not be answering phones for the duration of the protest, according to the website.

The owners face penalties of up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

The city of Arlington said it notified Power Alley that its business license could be suspended and additional fines imposed if the gym continues to stay open.

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