A California gym has been slapped with fines adding up to $550,000 by Santa Clara County for remaining open despite COVID-19 restrictions in place, and risks being issued more penalties if it continues to operate its indoor operations.
Under the state’s tier-system, Santa Clara County falls under the purple “widespread” risk category. Gyms are only allowed to open outdoors in the purple tier and all indoor pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms are required to close.
Despite repeated visits and notices from county officials, California Ripped Fitness in San Jose has chosen to stay open for indoor exercise for months and has made no efforts to comply with county rules.
Signs posted on the door of the gym say the business is peacefully protesting.
“We are exercising our constitutional right to peacefully protest. We are protesting that health clubs and exercise are essential,” one sign reads, according to San Jose daily The Mercury News.
All of the gym’s equipment remains indoors, despite the fact that the county permits gyms to move operations outside to continue serving their clients. The Mercury News reported that about two dozen were seen working out inside the facility on Wednesday afternoon.
The county’s director of community and business engagement branch, Michael Balliet, called it “unfortunate” that the gym has been unable to follow the restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. He told KRON-TV that the establishment has received at least 35 complaints.
“It’s really unfortunate that the business owner continues to violate the health officer order, when many other businesses of a similar type are doing the right thing and protecting their customers,” Balliet said.
California Ripped Fitness is one of many businesses in the Bay Area that have blatantly defied the strict health orders in favor of reopening the economy. Hairstylist and salon owners in San Francisco prominently flouted the state’s public health orders over the summer—a movement which was further fueled by footage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi getting her hair done indoors, which angered many owners who were forced to shutter their businesses.
Three other gyms in Contra Costa County were also recently cited and fined for operating indoors. In December and January, at least a dozen restaurants continued to open for outdoor dining, despite the county orders.
Despite its choice to remain operating indoors, California Ripped Fitness does require patrons to wear a mask and wipe down equipment after use while inside. The health club has closed its sauna, stopped offering its group classes and turned off its water fountains.
The gym initially closed at the beginning of the pandemic, shutting for six months. In September, when the county moved into the state’s red “substantial” tier, gyms were allowed to open indoors at 10 percent capacity. However, after reopening in the fall, California Ripped Fitness remained open even after the county reverted back to the purple tier two months later.
Newsweek reached out to California Ripped Fitness for comment but did not hear back before publication.