When this whole COVID-19 crisis is over, I’m going to guess New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is going to do a pander-fest tour of the Garden State’s small businesses — the ones that are still around, anyway.
He’ll stop at a small bookstore in Princeton and buy a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited,” making sure everyone knows how much he loves her work (an aide will quietly correct him). Murphy will visit a craft brewery in Hackensack and sample their special-edition Pandemic IPA. He won’t know what an IPA is, however, and he’ll spend the next half-hour trying to pretend he really likes something that tastes like carbonated Lysol.
He’ll buy some overpriced macaroons in Jersey City and some overpriced cupcakes in Cherry Hill and really whatever baked goods will get the taste of that godforsaken IPA out of his mouth.
My guess is, however, he’s not going to stop by the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr — a suburb of Philadelphia in Camden County — for a quick treadmill run to burn off all those calories.
If you’re a frequent Fox News watcher, you may be familiar with the Atilis Gym and its co-owners, Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti. At the beginning of Murphy’s COVID lockdowns, they decided they weren’t going to let the government take away their right to make a living. New Jersey’s functionaries believed a swift kick in the pants would put an end to that kind of thinking.
What’s followed is a nine-month battle between Atilis Gym and various state and local officials, one that’s ended with the gym incurring $1.2 million in fines yet still being open. If Gov. Murphy thinks the gym is any closer to closing, consider the fact that Smith managed to get 20,000 views in two hours for a video in which he disses the governor, wears a hat that says “Lions Not Sheep” and quickly sketches out everything the gym has endured to keep its doors open.
“We have been open against unconstitutional shut down orders since May,” Smith wrote in the video description that addresses government officials directly.
“Not once have we flinched, and the petty tyrant of New Jersey governor Murphy has tried everything he could possibly think of to ruin us. Over seven months later we still open our doors every single day. No government official will ever tell me that I am not able to provide for my family. I do not answer to public servants – no matter what threats or punishments they impose. I am a free man. I do not ask for permission. I do not ask for forgiveness. You work for us. The only way you’ll ever close these doors is when you close my casket. #itslikethat”
WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.
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Using a placard format reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s pioneering “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video, Smith laid out what he and Trumbetti have been through: fines, barricaded doors, arrests, citations, all that fun stuff.
“But … free men don’t ask permission,” read one of Smith’s signs.
“Or for forgiveness. No science, no shutdown.”
But wait, you’re probably saying to Mr. Smith. Surely with hundreds of people a day without masks, breathing hard and sweating, all in one of the hardest hit states in the nation, there has to be a rash of COVID cases associated with the Atilis Gym.
No, there’s not — and you definitely, definitely don’t call Ian Smith “Shirley.”
In an appearance on Fox News last week, Smith said that since May, “we just passed the 83,000 visit mark with not a single case of COVID tracked back to the facility.”
In a Monday phone interview, Trumbetti reiterated the point.
“We can pretty much guarantee Governor Murphy has had contract tracers for us,” he told The Western Journal. “We’ve had people who’ve had it, but it didn’t come from us.”
And trust me — if New Jersey bureaucrats could trace a case of COVID back to the Atilis Gym, they would have. Gov. Murphy would land his helicopter in the parking lot of the Browning Square Shopping Mall in Bellmawr, where Atilis Gym is located.
He’d hold the papers showing the positive test results aloft in his hand, waving them in the air so the media could see the damage the Atilis Gym hath wrought.
CNN would cover the media briefing as if it were actual news — and Murphy would play it to the hilt. Could he get Ian Smith charged with attempted murder? Probably not, but he’d definitely say he was exploring it.
Instead, nothing. Not a single case. But Smith and Trumbetti had had to break into their own business nonetheless, because the authorities boarded it up and locked it:
Just happened: Owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, closed by the state in dispute over pandemic regulations, kick in the front door to re-open pic.twitter.com/Lqx2H4gCFB
— jim walsh (@jimwalsh_cp) August 1, 2020
Smith isn’t just going to annoy Gov. Murphy by keeping the Atilis Gym open, either. He told Fox Business’ Jim Varney that he’s planning to start something like “a Yelp directory for businesses that are defying any and all COVID restrictions.”
“Whether that be complete shutdowns, arbitrary time limits on when they can and cannot serve alcohol or when they can’t serve food,” he added.
More places for Gov. Murphy not to visit, I guess.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.