The town of Oxford on Thursday changed the locks at a gym that has defied the Massachusetts ban on fitness studios amid the coronavirus pandemic, a town attorney told the Herald.
The town earlier in the day had shut off the lights and water, but members still showed up to pump iron in the dark, the owner said.
“They’re still coming to work out, and will keep working out here until the town locks the doors,” Prime Fitness & Nutrition owner Dave Blondin said on Thursday.
Later in the day, the town changed the locks and secured the building “with the cooperation of the building owner, who is not Mr. Blondin,” according to a lawyer for the town, Mark Reich of KP Law.
“The Town is hopeful that this action will resolve the matter and assure protection of public health and safety, which is the sole intent of the Town in this action,” Reich wrote in an email.
Blondin reopened his gym in mid-May during Phase 1 of the state’s get-back-to-work plan, but the state order prohibits gyms until Phase 3 — which won’t start until at least the end of June.
Blondin’s decision to reopen early has triggered a battle with town officials, who have fined him more than $8,000 and took him to court. This week, a Worcester Superior Court judge ruled that the town of Oxford can shut off the gym’s utilities and more.
“The town shall cause the utilities to the premises to be discontinued, shall remove anyone inside the premises, and shall secure the premises against re-entry by changing the locks, boarding up the doors, or any other measures necessary to prevent entry to the premises,” Judge Susan Sullivan wrote.
“It is clear to this point that those entering the premises in violation of this Court’s orders are aware of the court’s orders and are entering, at the encouragement of the defendant, in knowing and willful defiance of those orders,” the judge wrote.
Reich confirmed earlier on Thursday that the town shut off the domestic water and electrical service to the building.
Blondin said he’s prepared to bring the case to federal court.
“It’s unconstitutional what they’re doing,” he said. “They’re violating my rights.”
Blondin is also planning a protest for Saturday in the gym’s parking lot. He said he’s going to set up an outside gym and people will work out.
“It’s going to be a huge peaceful protest,” he said. “A lot of people will show up that support gyms and small businesses.”
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