East San Jose gym earns $550,000 in fines while remaining open to protest COVID restrictions

East San Jose gym earns $550,000 in fines while remaining open to protest COVID restrictions
Photo by Matthew Sichkaruk on Unsplash
By Shaun Borland - Published on February 04, 2021.

An East San Jose gym is racking up fines as it remains open for indoor workouts despite Santa Clara County’s COVID restrictions that ban indoor gyms. California Ripped Fitness, located in a shopping plaza at 1035 East Capitol Expressway, remained open after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state-wide shelter in place order went into effect in early December. Signs on the gym say the company is invoking its “constitutional rights to peacefully protest.”

According to Mercury News, county officials have visited the site multiple times, and the gym accrued $550,000 in fines for violating the county’s health orders. The gym has no intention of shutting down and plans to fight the fines deeming that gyms should be considered an essential business. 

The gym did close its doors for the first six months of the pandemic and only reopened when Santa Clara County entered the red tier allowing gyms to reopen indoors at a limited capacity. California Ripped Fitness didn’t start defying orders until the second round of mandated closures when the entire state regressed to the red tier stopping indoor and outdoor dining, limiting the capacity of essential stores, and closing non-essential businesses, including gyms. 

Current restrictions allow gyms to operate outdoors, but California Ripped Fitness isn’t making efforts to move their equipment outside; they are still complying with the guidelines outlined in September. All guests are required to wear masks. According to KTVU, which first reported the story, the gym stopped group classes and personal training sessions and closed its sauna to comply with regulations.

Members of the community have logged 35 complaints about the gym’s refusal to comply with orders. During a City Council meeting, one resident even went as far as asking for the gym’s owner to be arrested for posing a danger to residents. East San Jose is one of the COVID hotspots in Santa Clara County. 

The gym’s owner, who didn’t talk with multiple news agencies that reached out to him, believes gyms should be considered essential businesses. A sign on the gym’s window highlights the oddity that gyms, which promote healthy lifestyles, aren’t regarded as essential while liquor stores selling addictive substances and lottery tickets have few to little restrictions. 

“We are protesting that health clubs [and] exercise are essential,” a handwritten sign states. “We are fighting against diabetes, heart disease, obesity, [and] mental health. We are supporting medical needs of many during a pandemic.”

Gym members, county health officials, and city council members believe that California Ripped Fitness is taking advantage of the community while creating an unnecessary risk while San Jose is still fighting to get people tested and treated for COVID. 

“It’s really unfortunate that the business owner continues to violate the health officer order when many other businesses of a similar type are doing the right thing and protecting their customers,” Santa Clara County’s Michael Balliet said in a KRON news report. 

Since fines and visits from enforcement officials aren’t affecting the gym, the county is considering escalating the repeated violations with legal action. In December, Santa Clara county held Calvary Chapel was held in contempt for its continued health orders violations.