A county judge in Arizona has handed a local health club a partial victory in its challenge to Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order closing gyms. Although the order will stand, the judge ruled that the governor must give gyms adequate time to petition for reopening.
The ruling comes a month after Townhall reported that the gym, Mountainside Fitness, had lost its request for a restraining order blocking Gov. Ducey’s recent order forcing gyms to temporarily close a second time due to COVID-19 concerns. Despite acknowledging that the hardships to Mountainside and others impacted by closures may have been “unfair,” the court held that the gym did not sufficiently prove that the impact would be detrimental.
Mountainside didn’t give up, though. They pointed out that while the governor’s executive order said that establishments seeking to reopen could submit a form provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services proving their compliance with COVID-19 regulations, the state did not provide the form until after businesses had been forced to shut down. Even then, the form did not give fitness centers an opportunity to reopen during the mandatory shutdown period but simply attested that they would remain closed.
On Tuesday, the Maricopa County Superior Court ruled that the governor’s shutdown mandate violated procedural due process by failing to provide businesses like Mountainside an avenue to show it could safely reopen.
“The Court rules only that fitness centers and gyms are Constitutionally entitled to some mechanism for petitioning for reopening,” the judge wrote. “They must have some meaningful opportunity to be heard.”
In addition, although gyms might be able to weather a short closure, the judge noted that an extended shutdown “with no end in sight” could force businesses to “close permanently,” as has happened to countless businesses across the nation.
“There is very little credible scientific data supporting the notion that fitness centers operating with necessary safety protocols pose a danger or that shutting down well run gyms has a significant public health benefit. Yet, fitness centers and gyms have been closed for weeks without any due process whatsoever,” the ruling continued.
The judge ruled that gyms should have a “prompt opportunity” to apply for reopening and that the governor must establish a process for doing so “within one week from the date of entry of this order.”
Mountainside took to Twitter to celebrate the news and announced that it would resume operations next week.
MSF plans to re-open next Tuesday August 11th, and resume normal business hours. We look forward to seeing the most loyal fitness members in Arizona next Tuesday, as we all celebrate getting back to the business of strong hearts, strong minds and strong bodies. pic.twitter.com/P4JJlD16AI— Mountainside Fitness (@Mountainsidefit) August 4, 2020
“Relief is how we are feeling today,” Mountainside Founder and CEO Tom Hatten said in a press conference. “Since the first shut down, we have continued to do everything the governor and the state have asked us to do to safely operate our business and finally today, thanks to Judge Thomason, we have an avenue to open and stay open.”
Still, the judge did not find that the governor’s executive order violated procedural due process as the gym claimed, nor does it allow gyms to reopen immediately. Additionally, unless he extends it, Gov. Ducey’s executive order is scheduled to expire Aug. 12, which would make Mountainside’s win more symbolic than practical.
But Hatten sees it as a victory nonetheless.
"It's been a nightmare to be honest with you. I spent 30 years building Mountainside up. It’s the American dream, and to watch that seemingly come crashing down, and it quite possibly could have, was beyond scary," he said. "I hope this ruling is there for everybody’s sake to understand we don’t need to go through this as a business community, no business needs to go through this. We can move forward through this virus together, period."