Despite $1.2m in Fines, Gym Owner Encourages Small Businesses to Fight Back

Despite $1.2m in Fines, Gym Owner Encourages Small Businesses to Fight Back
Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym in New Jersey, at a Freedom Plaza rally in Washington on Dec. 12, 2020. (The Epoch Times)
Charlotte Cuthbertson

WASHINGTON—Atilis Gym in New Jersey is being fined $15,000 per day for being open against Gov. Phil Murphy's virus mandates. Co-owner Ian Smith says he's racked up more than $1.2 million in fines so far, but he doesn't intend to pay.

"I don't respect petty tyrants. I never will," Smith told The Epoch Times at an election integrity rally in Washington on Dec. 12.

"He [Murphy] is a public servant. You can't fine me $15,000 for not listening to an unconstitutional order—I won't pay it."

Smith and his gym hit the headlines in May when the doors were locked and protesters gathered in support of the owners. Both owners have been arrested for defying various lockdown orders.

Smith said the gym has a range of safety protocols in place, masks are optional, and the business hasn't had a single case of COVID-19 traced back to the facility, despite more than 84,000 visits.

He asserts that the science doesn't support the need for shutdown measures and encourages other small-business owners to take a stand and fully open up.

"It's important that every single person get in the fight. Every single small business, every single freedom-loving American, every single American that supports the Constitution and loves the American way of life," Smith said. "If you would have asked me back in February if I could have had this much impact as just one person, I would have laughed."

After gyms had been ordered closed for months, Murphy signed an order on Aug. 26 allowing them to reopen at 25 percent capacity, with strict protocols, including only allowing one person per 200 square feet for group classes.

Smith said he knew when Atilis defied the orders that they'd have some supporters, but the number was unexpected—the business is three to four times busier now than before the pandemic.

"That's because people will support doing the right thing. There's way more good people than there are people who want to see this country go in a bad direction. So don't be afraid," he said.

"This is a battle for national sovereignty. This has nothing to do with Republicans and Democrats. It's not just about an election. It's not just about a president. It's about a way of life and it's about your civil liberties.

"And the people that we're up against are the people that want to usher in globalism and want everybody to conform, and they want control and power."

Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.