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19 May 2020
Gyms file lawsuit over indefinite closure
By Tom Walker
Gyms file lawsuit over indefinite closure
The gym owners claim the decision to allow some businesses to reopen but keep gyms closed is a violation of their 'right to exist'
Photo: Shutterstock/Kawin168
Independent gym owners in Ohio have filed a lawsuit against state officials, challenging the decision to keep fitness facilities closed.

A group of 35 gym owners are claiming that the decision by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to allow the reopening of some businesses – but keeping gyms closed – is a violation of their "right to exist".

On April 30 the ODH issued an order which enables the reopening (or provides a pathway to reopening) of many of the state's industries, including retail and restaurants – but leaves gyms closed indefinitely.

According to the gym operators, the order was done "without regard to whether gyms are capable of operating safely".

A statement issued by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law – which is representing the gym operators – states: "(Our complaint) asserts that the Health Director’s unfettered discretion over matters of quarantine and isolation is impermissibly vague and violate the separation of powers on its face.

"Further, the use of those powers to criminalise gyms, that could otherwise comply with each of the safety regulations articulated in the April 30, 2020 Order, violates operators’ right to equal protection.

Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center, added: "The Ohio Constitution requires greater scrutiny of vague and discriminatory enactments that trample Ohioans’ property rights.

"Ohio gyms are capable of operating safely and have the right to operate on equal terms with other Ohio businesses. Once gyms have opened, we are committed to ensuring that these arbitrary policies never recur."

The case isn't the first lawsuit brought against local authorities by gym companies and operators in the US in recent weeks.

In the state of Virginia, a judge rejected a petition from Merrill Hall – who owns a chain of Gold's Gym franchises and other gyms – who was seeking to reopen his facilities despite an executive order requiring gyms to remain closed.

Dismissing the case, Circuit Court judge Claude Worrell said Virginia law gives the governor broad authority to issue executive orders during a public health emergency.

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