By WECT Staff | May 1, 2020 at 8:51 AM EDT – Updated May 1 at 4:28 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Law enforcement issued a citation Friday morning to a gym owner who re-opened his doors, despite the North Carolina governor’s stay-at-home mandate which is in place until at least May 8.
Muscleworx Fitness owner Jason Morgan reopened Thursday morning at 6 a.m. out of what he called “financial necessity.”
Morgan was taking customers temperatures as they arrived, and had hand sanitizer available throughout the gym in an effort to keep his members safe, but said he did not think the number of COVID-19 cases locally justified the extreme measures being taken.
“We got so much more positive reaction yesterday for being open. I can’t tell you the number of people that called and thanked me that weren’t even in the gym – that called me from other parts of the state and other states, for being able to go and do this,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he wasn’t trying to make any kind of political statement by opening for business again, weeks ahead of when the state could enter phase two, when gyms will tentatively be allowed to open under Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order. Instead, he said he was simply trying to survive.
According to Morgan, deputies said they would padlock the doors if he continued to operate his business until Governor Roy Cooper issues a new executive order allowing non-essential businesses to reopen.
“We knew that we were taking a chance on opening up. We hoped that it would kind of go, I don’t want to say unnoticed, but that people would realize that we’re in a situation where we could stay open and be open responsibly, and they would let us as adults make our own choices,” Morgan said.
His attorney Barry Henline, who also happens to be a member of his gym, is prepared to defend the business owner.
“I recommended to him that we download the CDC guidelines for businesses that are open. And Mr. Morgan has been explicitly following those CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of his clientele as they come in and out of this gym,” Henline said.
Morgan plans to open Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and again Monday at 5:30 a.m.
“We’re going to abide by the fact that they’re doing their job, serving the citation and all. I still believe that the shutdown, the fact that they’re willing to padlock the doors, I believe that violates my constitutional rights,” Morgan said.
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