A borough council in Camden County voted Tuesday to rescind the business license of a gym that has repeatedly defied a state order to close its doors under coronavirus restrictions.

The Bellmawr council voted 5 to 1 to rescind the mercantile license of Atilis Gym after an hour-long hearing that featured comments from the gym owners’ attorney, the borough’s lawyer and council members. One of the gym owners, Ian Smith, sat in the council chamber, along with a half dozen police officers and 10 members of the public allowed to attend in seats spaced 6-feet apart.

“Anybody who didn’t already have their minds made up would have made the right choice,” Smith said outside of the hearing.

One of the last times he was inside the Bellmawr municipal complex, earlier this month, he was in handcuffs after being arrested.

This time he entered on his own free will but the circumstance was equally unpleasant.

Howard Long, the borough’s attorney, presented information about the citations issued to the gym and advised the council on what they could do about it.

“If you believe this business is unsafe to your residents of Bellmawr and you believe that laws have been violated,” Long said. “You have the right…to revoke this license”

Smith’s attorney, John McCann, called some of the information presented in the hearing about the gym as “goofy” and “obnoxious.” He called it “something out of George Orwell.”

The borough council eventually voted to revoke the license following nine pairs of citations against Smith and his business partner Frank Trumbetti, and an arrest for defying a state executive order to keep their gym closed as part of the coronavirus pandemic response.

“The bottom line is we are fighting for our constitutional rights,” Trumbetti, 51, said earlier this month.

Trumbetti did not attend the Tuesday hearing.

Previously, Trumbetti said he and his partner think the borough is acting at the behest of Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy has been a target of Trumbetti and Smith, 33, in an ongoing campaign they are waging against the restriction on opening Atilis Gym. Both have appeared multiple times on national newscasts on which they are critical of Murphy’s pandemic restrictions. They say the governor’s executive order, issued when the state was in the height of its pandemic response as one of the hardest hit in the nation, was unfair to them and a violation of federal rights.

The state doesn’t see it that way.

“Atilis Gym’s brazen conduct is abhorrent to an organized judicial system, jeopardizes the public health and the safety of New Jerseyans, and must not be tolerated,” the state Attorney General’s office has said. “It is clear that additional sanctions and relief are necessary to coerce Atilis Gym’s compliance with the court’s order.”

The AG’s office last week recommended fines of up to $10,000 a day and possible imprisonment for Trumbetti and Smith who were found to be in contempt of a state executive order to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

Trumbetti and Smith kicked in a plywood barricade at the front door of the gym earlier this month and reopened it to patrons, officials said. The building had been shuttered to mandate compliance with the shutdown order, which the pair had repeatedly violated, claiming it was a financial hardship and driving them out of business.

Trumbetti and Smith were also arrested by Camden County sheriffs at the gym on July 27 and brought to a holding cell of the Bellmawr police after refusing to leave. They were released after appearing before Mercer County Civil Court Judge Robert Lougy and ordered to reappear on Aug. 16.

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Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.



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Topics #attorney #Bellmawr council #Camden County #governor #Howard Long #Ian Smith #New Jersey