Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, New Jersey was one of the first states to go into an official lockdown. At the time the lockdown began, Governor Phil Murphy was insistent that we were in lockdown for the sole purpose of “flattening the curve”— I.e. getting to a place where the hospitals could keep up with the number of sick people without getting overwhelmed/tapped out.
As the number of daily new infections and deaths has reached a major decline from when the virus was at its peak in New Jersey, some things have started to reopen. These have included casinos, malls, and certain small businesses. One of the things that have still not been allowed to open, though, are gyms.
Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, who own Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, have at this point become national symbols for fighting back against the Government in terms of their keeping small businesses from surviving during the pandemic. Specifically, Smith and Trumbetti have taken on Murphy’s resistance to open gyms when he has opened so many other businesses.
Their battle against Murphy has included the health department shutting them down, Smith and Trumbetti taking the door off of its hinges and refusing to leave the property, and most recently breaking back into their gym to let customers work out after the government had boarded their doors with plywood.
This morning, we spoke exclusively to Smith about what’s going on, his frustrations with the current state of what he appears to deem as Murphy’s hypocrisies, and more.
Ian Smith Speaks Out: It’s A Personal Issue
“At this point, it is crystal clear that he’s made this a personal issue with Frank and I,” Smith began with sharing with us about Murphy. “And I mean, I can give you specifics that that even show it in the way that he’s writing the executive orders.”
“But as far as why Frank and I are certain that this is a power play for- it’s a political power play, because the health aspects of the of the virus, especially from a public health standpoint, just don’t add up,” Smith continued.
Smith then pointed out some of the hypocrisies, stating “You’re allowing liquor sales, you’re allowing all these unhealthy things to go on. And you’re telling people to shelter in place, you’re telling people to wear masks, you’re telling people to do all these things. But the science is pretty straightforward. When it comes to the effectiveness of masks, the effectiveness and the effectiveness of long term isolation, and the detrimental effect that has on your immune system. But you’re encouraging people to stay home. You’re allowing alcohol sales, you’re allowing tobacco sales. All this stuff points to the fact that the interest of the government is not at least the priority is not public health. It’s about power and control. And it’s a political thing.”
“Anybody who can’t see that at this point, I think is either willfully ignorant or really, really needs a wake-up call,” Smith continued explaining. “When you have policy all around the country in one of two ways. It’s either red or blue, and everybody who’s red is doing one thing and everybody who’s blue is doing another. You have these Democratic governors who are refusing to lift lockdowns- Murphy, Cuomo, Wolf, Gretchen whatever her name is in Michigan, Gavin Newsom- and then on the lower levels of that you have mayors and other local officials who are left-leaning all just relentlessly pushing this lockdown.”
“And then again,” Smith reiterated, “the science shows that the lockdown was not effective. There’s studies that came out of LA County, out of New York, out of Fort Lauderdale that shows during the lockdown the virus continued… and that’s science that’s readily available and yet they still continue to push these measures. And with that, they push along the mail-in voting and you have the double standards as far as protesting goes, and it’s all very political.”
“Unless it’s in his [Murphy’s] favor- he likes to pander for votes, and he’s pandering for votes,” Smith added.
But why does Smith think he and Trumbetti have become targets of Murphy’s?
“Because we challenged his authority and we bruised his ego,” Smith stated. “And I don’t think he wants to back down because that’s going to hurt him too much. What we did originally, when we opened up back in May, we presented a public plan to the world. We didn’t hide the fact that we were opening, we didn’t just open recklessly. We’ve put together a very comprehensive 15- point safety protocol that goes above and beyond what any small business in New Jersey or the country does.”
“And to elaborate,” Smith continued, “not even small businesses, big businesses, we do more than what hospitals do. With the safety procedures that we put in place. Some of the technology that we’ve put in place is far beyond. We have a biometric temperature scanner at the front door, you walk up to it, and it’s it scans your temperature without anybody touching you. We have an entirely touch-less system walking in. I can go on and on and on about that stuff but that’s been put out there. But we put that out there not to be openly defiant, not to be disrespectful to government, but to say ‘Hey, you guys haven’t presented a plan and we’re two months into 14 days now you know, because remember that’s what it was 14 days flatten the curve everybody seems to kind of forget that.”
Weaponizing Against Us
Smith still had more to say on the issue, noting that “You’ve got these constantly moving goalposts. We didn’t do this to be disrespectful. We didn’t do this to be defiant. He likes to call us defiant. I mean, that’s like his favorite word. He turned it into that because instead of reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna send somebody from the Health Department down, let’s take a look at what you’re doing.’ Nobody’s reached out other than to punish.”
“He’s weaponized every public organization he can against us,” Smith elaborated. “He weaponized the local police. He weaponized the state police against us. He weaponized the Health Department against us. He’s now weaponized the court system against us. It’s like you can’t tell me that that’s what that government is supposed to do. These are public organizations that are there to serve the public and protect the public. The people. The police aren’t there to carry out your will and arrest people who disobey you. The police are there to protect the community. The Health Department isn’t there to enforce your will by shutting us down arbitrarily because we got shut down by the Health Department without a Health Department official ever calling or even stepping foot inside the building. They walked up to our door and slapped a sticker on it that basically said you are closed because [of] Coronavirus. So it’s a clear weaponization of public offices that are there to protect them. The Health Department is there to make sure people and businesses are well-regulated and doing what they’re supposed to do, not to enforce your will.”
Smith doubled down on his assertion that Murphy’s issue with him and Trumbetti is personal, stating that “So everything he does points to the fact that this is personal and it’s sad that it’s become that because it wasn’t- that was not our intent and it’s very clear if you go back on the first video I put out. I made a nine-minute speech explaining why we were opening, what our thoughts were, what our goals were. That stuff went ignored and he immediately turned us into villains, and when you look at that, it’s clear that this is an ego thing for him and this is a power thing for him and we are a threat to that.”
It’s Infuriating For Gyms
We then asked Smith how hard it is for him and Trumbetti to see casinos, for example, being allowed to open, but still have their gym forced to remain closed.
“It’s infuriating,” Smith began with telling us. “I mean, it’s- and don’t get me wrong, I think every business should be open. But the fact that you can go get a f**king lap dance and you won’t get COVID there, but you walk into my gym and touch a dumbbell, you’ll get sick and die? I’m responsible for this, for the spread- not the masses of people who are at beach and not the masses of people who want to go back to sports games and stuff like that.”
“It’s like they’ve turned this virus into something novel. Like, this isn’t anything new,” Smith continued explaining. “We’ve had viruses and plagues and bacteria and sh*t that interacts with our body for longer than we’ve been around as a human species. So, to think that this is something new and all of a sudden we have to eradicate it and life can’t go on without it is asinine.”
“It’s so backward,” Smith added. “But then when it starts to be like, Oh, well, your business is essential, but you go sit the f**k down and wait. I got $15,000 a month overhead here. And we’re, we’re in month five now, remember? Yes for 14 days [we were initially supposed to be shut down for]. Today is 141 of the shutdown. Yes. And that’s a lot of money. That little unemployment. $600 a week doesn’t quite pay my bills. You know what I mean? But then to tell somebody, okay, your business is good, you won’t spread COVID, but you will, and then to not even back it up. Now if he could back up that science. His favorite thing to say is we’re guided by science and data, science and data. But he’s yet to reach to report or show any science or data”
Smith still had more to tell us, affirming that “In all this, you know, he has never once put forth any data that says, hey, this business is- here’s why we can’t open this one. It’s all vague statements. It’s all conclusionary statements with no hard and good science backing it up. Now, on the other hand, the gym industry, we have tons of data. We have tons of data. We have studies out of Norway, out of Sweden, out of the health clubs in the US that have opened with like 150 million check-ins. You know, with an infection rate of like 0.002% of those people. We have studies that show that going to the gym actually reduces the spread of the virus as seen in Norway and Sweden and Oslo. And again, that’s conclusionary there. That’s not just conclusionary evidence, that’s hard data. And we have shown that and we continue to show that.”
“It’s insane,” Smith stated, reiterating his frustrations with things like malls and casinos opening but not his gym. “It’s absolutely infuriating. And for somebody who’s worth $60 million to tell me to be patient and not offer me any solutions or assistance or anything, and just give me $600 a week to sit and shut up and barely feed my family? It’s infuriating. That’s not the type of government we’re supposed to have. That’s reminiscent of kings and f**king peasants in medieval Europe. You know what I mean, throwing bread crumbs while they’re feasting. Like this guy flies around in his helicopter. Don’t tell me to wait to open my business, especially if you’re not giving me any good reason to do so.”
Smith Says – “You’re Going To Have To Destroy Me”
When asked where things stand now, Smith gave a very bold and brazen response.
“It’s pretty simple for me,” Smith shared. “If you’re going to destroy my life, you’re going to have to destroy me first. End of story.”
When asked if, at this point, Smith is not going down without a complete fight, he told us “No, not at all. And I will make you [Murphy] look so bad in all of it. Because every time you do something punitive, every time you step it up, you’re gonna piss more people off.”
“I don’t- I didn’t ask to be a f**king martyr,” Smith added. “But if you want to turn me into a f**king martyr, then go ahead.”
“We just wanted to open our gym and stand up for our rights that we thought were being infringed upon and we still do,” Smith elaborated. “So it’s- this has always been about much bigger [things] than a gym. It’s been about your rights as a free citizen to make the choices to exercise your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the right to feed your family, to go to work, you know, to do what you want. No, that’s not [the] government’s job to tell me to stay the f**k home.”
“It’s not about public health,” Smith added. “It’s about power and control.”
Has There Been Coronavirus At Their Gym?
We then asked Smith if during all of their battle to reopen they have had any cases of coronavirus at their gym.
Smith began by explaining their safety measures, which sound extremely well thought out.
“Part of our safety protocol is we have contact tracing,” Smith began with sharing. “I won’t explain every measure we have, but every time somebody comes in the gym, they stand in front of a biometric scanner, they get the temperature taken. If they’re above 100.4, they are not allowed access to the gym for 72 hours, no exceptions.”
“Then they fill out a liability waiver,” Smith continued, “you know, basically saying, hey you acknowledge that Coronavirus is a thing. And you’re here under your own free will knowing that, you know, you’re a responsible adult. And in addition to that, they will fill out every day they come in, they fill out a health questionnaire, which is something that we modeled off of the chiropractor’s office right next door. And that is, have you been in contact with anybody who has shown symptoms, or been tested COVID positive in the past 24 hours? Have you had any symptoms? Do you currently have any symptoms? Have you been out of the country? All of those obviously, the answer must be no or you’re not allowed in the facility. And at the bottom of that sheet, you record the time you came in, your temperature, the date, your name, and then you’re gonna sign it. And we keep [a] record of that. We have [a] record of every single person who has stepped foot inside of our building, including the number of times they’ve been here. The number of visits per day, the number of visits per month, we have tracked it all. And there has not been one single case of COVID recorded since we reopened.”
“There’s not another business in the state that’s doing that,” Smith added. “And we have at this point, we have well over 14,000 visits since June, we haven’t even calculated May yet. But we were only open for one week in May. But we have well over since June when we reopened again. June 16. We have well over 14,000 visits and not one single case [of coronavirus] has been recorded.”
Murphy’s Executive Orders Targeting Them
When our conversation began, Smith had mentioned that Murphy had executive orders he and Trumbetti felt were specifically targeting them. We asked Smith if he could provide some examples of that to us.
“One of the biggest ones is you are allowed to operate a martial arts studio, a dance studio, or a gymnastics studio so long as you are not licensed and insured as a health club,” Smith began with explaining. “You have to be licensed and insured. That can be found in Executive Order 157-7. So, there are two types of insurances in this industry. You have Fitness Studio- if you’re licensed as a fitness studio or you can be licensed as a health club. Being a health club, it’s a much bigger insurance policy, you know, so a lot of these places choose to go with the Fitness Studio health insurances cause it’s a cheaper alternative and a lot of those and most gyms aren’t labeled as that, but there are some.”
“You can have a martial arts studio and be licensed and insured as a gym and not be able to open,” Smith elaborated. “It’s down to the wording in the executive orders. You can tell me that there is a bit of a difference between two guys rolling around on the ground doing Jiu-Jitsu and somebody in here doing deadlifts or squats.”
Smith had more to share on this, stating that “That’s one example. But just the fact, you know, everything that he’s opened so far, if you look at it in comparison, I mean- outside, you’re allowed to do full-contact sports now. So you can play rugby, you can play football, you can box, you can do karate. You can do full-contact martial arts. And if you’ve ever seen a boxing match or if you’ve ever seen any full-contact sports- I used to play rugby. When you’re running and you play rugby and you get nailed, your spit is flying everywhere. You’re talking about sweat, heavy breathing, all this stuff, close contact. You’re allowed to do that. But you cannot walk into the gym and walk on the treadmill.”
“It’s written like that,” Smith added of the executive orders. “And then on top of that, you have high school gyms. The New Jersey police, State Police barracks, and professional athletes are allowed to work out. Their gyms are all open. The New Jersey State Police barracks is open and their gym is open. And it’s been open for quite a while. So at that point, either A- gyms are dangerous, and you don’t give a f**k about the health of your state police or there’s something you’re not telling us and gyms are actually beneficial and an essential thing for the health and well-being of your officers, but you don’t want to offer that to the general public.”
So Where Does This Leave Things?
We “asked Smith if there was anything we had missed in our conversation that he wanted out there.
Smith wrapped by stating that “At the time of this article, we are 141 days into a 14-day lockdown that was about flattening the curve. And now it’s ‘Shut up. Wear a mask. Don’t defy me or I’m going to fine your business $10,000 a day, throw you in prison, revoke your business license.’”
“You asked us to shut down for two weeks.,” Smith added. “And now we’re here. The tone has changed quite a bit.”