Court Rules New York Gyms’ 25% Capacity Restriction “Arbitrary and Capricious,” Allows Athletes Unleashed Full Reopening
In a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, December 23, New York State Supreme Court Judge Honorable Paul B. Wojtaszek ruled in favor of Athletes Unleashed, a gym based in Orchard Park, NY, allowing them to reopen at 100 percent capacity, while continuing to follow social distancing rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The details: Paul Cambria, the attorney representing Athletes Unleashed, argued that the mandate telling gyms to operate at 25 percent capacity was “arbitrary and capricious.”
- “The judge said there was a lack of data that showed gyms are a problem, and that places that have higher rates of transmission than gyms are 100 percent open,” Robby Dinero, the owner of Athletes Unleashed, told the Morning Chalk Up.
- “The data they pulled was that gyms are responsible for 0.06 percent of (COVID-19) infections, meanwhile places like Walmart are 0.61, so 10 times more likely to spread the virus than us. And yet we were at 25 percent capacity, and Walmart and liquor stores are at 100 percent capacity. This has nothing to do with protecting people, and the judge saw that,” Dinero continued.
- In his ruling, Wojtaszek also stated that “we have to protect the right to normalcy,” Dinero added.
Why this matters: With so many gyms operating with debilitating restrictions, this New York Supreme Court ruling has the ability to set a precedent and pave the way for other gyms to operate at full capacity while obeying social distancing, sanitation and mask requirements.
An ongoing battle: Though he won this ruling, this wasn’t Dinero’s first fight, nor will it be his last.
- Dinero was hit with a $15,000 fine in November for breaking a regulation by holding a “non-essential gathering” with more than 10 people. He ripped up the fine and has continuously refused to pay.
- Next up for him is a hearing on February 10, where Dinero and his lawyer will argue that Governor Andrew Cuomo has “acted unconstitutionally with his (COVID-19) mandates,” Dinero said.
One big thing: Dinero is urging other small gym owners to get involved in the fight that he said is all about “protecting their rights” to operate their business safely.
- “Gyms need to band together and take a stand. It’s about being willing to send the government packing and stand up for your rights to stay open. We’re not crazy people. We understand there’s a virus going around and that action needs to be taken,” Dinero said.
- “But we have had zero spread. There has been zero contact tracing back to us. People in Walmart are packed in there, fingers poking everything, and we’re a controlled environment. We know all our clients and we can 100 percent control the environment. Our members are responsible. When a member has been exposed they stay away for 10 to 14 days. We are safe,” he added.
Remind me: CrossFit LLC stripped Athletes Unleashed of its affiliation after it was revealed that Dinero sent an email with racist remarks in November.
- Dinero was also critical of CrossFit LLC. “They haven’t done anything to protect gyms during the pandemic,” said Dinero.
- “For all of CrossFit’s talk about community, they haven’t done anything. We got our gym open, not them, and other gyms need to stand up for themselves, because CrossFit talks a good game, but they haven’t done anything,” he said.
The big picture: While some gyms around the world are currently closed completely, and others are getting hit with fines, or are operating at a limited capacity, this New York ruling has the potential to change the course of action for gyms during the pandemic in the upcoming weeks.
- “The fight has already been won,” Dinero said, adding that this should inspire other gyms to see that it’s a “possible fight to win.”
- It’s time for gyms to “fight to get their freedoms back,” he said.