Warnings from town officials and thousands of dollars in fines aren’t stopping Dave Blondin from operating his gym in Oxford.
Blondin, 30, the owner of Prime Fitness and Nutrition, has been fined more than $5,000 since he opened his gym ahead of schedule after keeping it closed for weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the state’s reopening plan, gyms and fitness studios aren’t allowed to reopen until Phase 3, which will start no sooner than June 29. But Blondin went ahead and opened on May 18.
Blondin said in an interview Thursday that the town ordered him to close the facility, but he refuses to do so. He said people need to be able to exercise and he’s committed to keeping his gym open, no matter what.
“I’m willing to take this as far as I have to,” Blondin said. “I’m willing to go to jail.”
On the first day Blondin reopened, the town’s health inspector stopped by and gave him an oral warning. The next day, town officials came back and gave him a written warning. Then they started issuing the fines.
Mark Reich, an attorney who serves the town counsel for Oxford, said Blondin has received 18 notices of violation from the town’s Board of Health as well as a cease-and-desist order. The town also sought a temporary restraining order and filed a complaint for civil contempt in Worcester Superior Court.
“He is defying a court order requiring him to shut down,” said Reich.
Reich estimated that Blondin has also been issued approximately $5,100 in fines.
“From our perspective, it’s not a matter of money,” said Reich. “We’re seeking to protect public health and safety.”
Blondin said a GoFundMe campaign was launched to help him pay the fines and legal fees.
“My members are continuing to donate,” Blondin said.
As of Thursday, contributions to the GoFundMe campaign totaled $9,111.
“Prime Fitness believes in the health and safety of all our members and we are an essential business because we not only keep you physically healthy, but more important, your mental health,” the GoFundMe page states.
“We believe you can continue to keep people safe while protecting the vulnerable and still keep your doors open. By choosing to stay open and go against the order the gym is subject to fines, we would appreciate any donations as they will help keep us open and protect the health of our members. Donations not used towards fines will be donated to to mental health organizations in order to further aid in those who are suffering. We hope to inspire other gyms and small businesses to follow our lead.”
Blondin has been running his nutrition business for 10 years. He opened the gym three years ago.
He said he continues to limit the number of people allowed inside the gym.
“We’re keeping all the same safety precautions,” he said. Face coverings and masks are not required in his gym, he said, but people can wear them if they like.
Thus far, he said, none of his members have gotten sick.
“Everybody’s just happy to be working out,” he said.