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Local gym owners say another Ohio shutdown could produce more legal battles

Posted at 10:22 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 23:15:19-05

CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio gym and fitness center owners are bracing themselves for another potential COVID-19 statewide shutdown sometime next week.

Some local business owners like Mike Soster, owner of Functions of Life Fitness Center in Broadview Heights, believe if Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine institutes a second shutdown it will likely generate addition lawsuits filed against the state.

Soster is concerned if the temporary closing of restaurants, bars and gyms takes place, it won't be a short shutdown and he hopes the governor will find other ways to further mitigate COVID-19 risk.

“We know it’s going to be more like four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, maybe even longer," Soster said. “Maybe limit the capacity, it’s never been talked about. Limiting your capacity or having a percentage of your fire code capacity, maybe that’s the option because that would allow some places to still operate and still provide some services.

"We’re going to hear out what he has to say and then we’re going to have to make a decision for ourselves. If we know we’re going to lose five to eight thousand dollars per week, maybe you stay open until you get a warning or something like that. You can’t ignore the virus, but at the same time we know what’s happening in our facility and we know how safe we're being,” Soster said.

Tom Slomka, owner of the Old School Iron Gym in Brook Park, is already part of lawsuit filed on behalf of his location and more than 30 other fitness centers across the state.

In May, a Lake County Judge ruled in favor of the gym owners, stating the state overstepped its legal authority. The ruling was issued just a few days before the state voluntarily lifted its shutdown order on May 26.

Slomka believes the vast majority of gyms and fitness centers have done an outstanding job preventing the spread of COVID-19 while they've been open the past four-and-a-half months.

“Another one would be devastating, that’s going to be hard to come back from, we don’t want to go down that road," Slomka said. “While we've been in open, zero outbreaks and thousands and thousands and thousands of visits. I don’t know if there should be any specific model, but I know ours is working and there’s plenty more like of us out there.”

Slomka said if the another shutdown order is issued, he'll rely on his attorney to decide if he'll temporarily close or remain open.

“I think that we will stick with what our attorney suggests, and whatever that is, we will follow those directions," Slomka said.