SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Tuesday he's suing two gyms that have continued to operate in violation of the governor's anti-COVID stay-home order, but he's giving them a last chance to avoid a fine.
Ferguson said his office had given several warnings to Fitness 101 Team Puyallup, more commonly known as Northwest Fitness Co., and to Power Alley Fitness, or PA Fitness, in Arlington. His office sued them in Pierce County and Snohomish County superior courts, respectively, but he said that if they close down by Wednesday his office won't seek fines or legal fees.
The attorney general’s office alleged that by remaining open, the gyms are endangering public health and engaging in unfair business practices because their competitors have followed the state’s rules. That violates the state Consumer Protection Act, Ferguson said.
Northwest Fitness Company’s website advises that “We are not open!” but says gym members can attend “protest hours” every day except Sunday.
Power Alley Fitness, which reopened May 11 after being closed for several weeks, describes itself on its website as a fitness facility that's in a fight with Washington's government over its constitutional rights, and it asks for donations to help pay for legal fees. It calls fitness essential and says it wants to remain open while following social distancing and Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
Co-owner Mike Jellison said Power Alley Fitness doesn't intend to close and will sue the state Thursday to block it from enforcing the governor's order, citing due process and other constitutional concerns.
The gym has taken numerous precautions, including cleaning locker rooms and bathrooms every hour; limiting occupancy to 25% of normal, 60 members and 15 staff at any given time; moving equipment 6 feet from other equipment; and taking the temperature of everyone who enters. The gym is not requiring people to wear masks, he said.
“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.”
Public health experts have warned repeatedly that people can spread COVID-19 even if they don't have symptoms.
In a news release, Ferguson said his office sent both gyms final cease-and-desist letters last Friday. City officials in Arlington have also warned Power Alley Fitness that it could revoke the gym's business license.
Consumer Protection Act violations are punishable by fines of $2,000 per instance. Ferguson noted that local prosecutors could bring criminal charges if the gyms refuse to close.