Washington state warned owners of gyms in Arlington and Puyallup it would sue them for defying Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home orders.
Power Alley Fitness in Arlington and Northwest Fitness Company in Puyallup could face fines of up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act.
Michael Jellison, who reopened PA Fitness last week, said he would close the Arlington gym on May 19 by the state's 7 p.m. deadline to avoid fines.
A sign posted on the front door of Northwest Fitness in Puyallup Wednesday morning said the company is “temporarily halting our protest” due to Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit.
“We are actively working on a solution to restart our protest,” the sign read.
Jellison said he plans to file a counter-lawsuit later this week, claiming his constitutional rights are being violated.
The City of Arlington also warned PA Fitness that its business license could be revoked should they continue to operate in violation of the governor's proclamation.
AG Ferguson issued a warning to both companies.
"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 letter said. "It is unfair to your competitors for you to be open for business while they are complying with the Proclamation."
Gov. Jay Inslee also criticized the gym owners' decision to reopen ahead of the order.
“These gyms right now are presenting a clear and present danger to the citizens of our state and they need to follow this law,” told reporters.
"There's just no reason why certain people would think they're kind of special and they have certain rights that other citizens do not," Inslee said. "Right now these businesses are violating the law. They're endangering their patrons and not just their patrons. It's the patrons' families and the patrons' neighbors."
In Puyallup, local residents had mixed reactions to Northwest Fitness' reopening.
A woman named Diane, who would not give her last name, said her son is a member at Northwest Fitness and she approves of their reopening.
"Our liberty’s being stolen from us because of the virus," she said. "We were very proud of them to take a stand against, we call him, Dictator Inslee."
But Roger Brown, who lives in Puyallup, was skeptical.
"It's almost kind of an irony that they're going to protest at their own risk of contracting the virus. I mean, how does that make sense?"
In Arlington, Jellison opened the gym last week in protest of the order. He said he took steps to protect the health of customers. There are temperature checks at the door for all customers, and they must sign a waiver upon entry. Jellison also spaced all work out machines 6 feet apart and installed sanitation stations in the facility. Extra employees will be on the floor wiping down the equipment.
Previous story: Arlington gym opens in protest of Washington’s stay-home order
Jellison previously said stress is more deadly than the novel coronavirus, and that exercise is essential for mental health.
“Health, fitness, mental health is important. It’s essential,” said Jellison. “Regardless of what anybody says, it’s essential. The president of the United States stated that it was essential in one of his briefings, Phase 1. We were disregarded in the state, even though we have one of four states in the United States that have the ability to open.”