OXFORD (CBS) – It’s been almost a month since Prime Fitness in Oxford opened up early — in violation of Governor Charlie Baker’s Covid-19 restrictions. But Tuesday, a Worcester Superior Court judge ruled the town can use whatever means necessary to shut down the gym.
“They say they’re going to,” said owner Dave Blondin. “We’ll see what happens. I’ll stay here until they do.”
The calmly defiant owner stood in front of his gym Tuesday evening, as members pumped iron inside.
“They are making their own decision to come through the doors,” said Blondin, “and as an American it’s a free country.”
On May 18, Blondin reopened Prime Fitness with distancing and disinfecting — but six weeks ahead of the Governor’s phased schedule — arguing the shutdown was unconstitutional and would bankrupt his gym.
Oxford responded with warnings, citations, and $7000 in fines — before heading to court.
On Tuesday, Judge Susan Sullivan ruled the town could change the locks, shut off the power, and board up the place — if needed — to close Blondin down.
“I think it was ridiculous,” said Blondin, referring to Judge Sullivan’s ruling. “I think she’s completely overlooking the Constitution and I think deep down in her heart she knows that.”
Most members are fiercely supportive, funneling thousands of dollars into a GoFundMe account to pay Blondin’s fines.
“I think what Dave’s doing is good for a lot of people who really need it,” said gym member Samuel Mogel. “For myself, I can say that working out keeps me sane.”
But some other town residents view Blondin’s stubborn stand as an irresponsible health threat.
“He shouldn’t be open,” said Melinda Maschke. “What about all the other gyms? It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair at all.”
“I’m extremely frustrated by it all,” said Blondin shaking his head.
Town attorney Mark Reich says Oxford will act “soon” to shutter the gym — hopefully without confrontation — but he declined to reveal the tactics or timing.
Owner Blondin said he is not inclined to buckle — and doesn’t believe his members will either. “I think they’ll just keep working out,” Blondin said with a smile.
While Blondin waits for some sort of late night or pre-dawn visit from authorities, he believes he will eventually win in Federal Court.
According to the Governor Baker’s re-opening plan, Prime Fitness would be able to re-open — and be within the rules — in phase three.
That could be as early as June 29.