Gym Owners Have No Idea What Gov. Ducey’s Latest Closures Mean — And They’re Suing Over It

Ducey sitting in front of sign that says "Returning Stronger"

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

By Jessica Swarner

July 1, 2020

One gym was cited in multiple cities after its CEO defied the governor’s new order and accused Ducey of closing businesses at random.

Arizona businesses were once again sent into uncertainty Monday when Gov. Doug Ducey announced certain places would have to close up shop again for at least the next 30 days. 

The new executive order applied to bars, nightclubs, gyms, waterparks, and tubing starting at 8 p.m. 

Ducey said he hoped the slowdown of activity, along with other new safety guidance for pools and mass gatherings, would help slow Arizona’s surging COVID-19 numbers

But on Tuesday, it was clear some business owners felt angry over the governor’s latest action. 

Staying Open

Tom Hatten, CEO of gym chain Mountainside Fitness, announced Monday evening that he is filing a lawsuit against the state over the new mandate, saying it unfairly penalized some businesses while others could continue to operate. 

“If [the virus] is truly as bad as we’re being told, I don’t think health clubs closing tomorrow is going to solve the problem,” Hotten said at a press conference. “If you want to solve the problem, then solve it. Don’t look at a health club or a random business to make it look like you’re trying to.” 

Another gym, Life Time, also announced it would join the lawsuit. 

“In support of the nearly 1,500 Life Time team members in Arizona, we are concerned with further disrupting their livelihoods after the challenging impact posed by the shutdowns in place since mid-March,” spokeswoman Natalie Bushaw said in a statement. “With this in mind, we intend to continue serving members in every area of the club.” 

Both gyms stayed open Tuesday, publicly challenging Ducey’s order. But as of the evening, Mountainside had been cited in multiple Valley cities, with each misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $2,500. There were no reports of Life Time being cited. 

Some places for exercise also stayed open Tuesday, but for a different reason––leadership said they were considered “fitness studios” rather than “gyms” and therefore didn’t count under the order. 

Reformed Pilates said in an email that the fact that it operates “by appointment” and at reduced capacity led staff to believe it is exempt from the order. A Pure Barre location in Scottsdale and Phoenix Rock Gym shared the same rationale for staying open. 

However, the governor’s office appeared to respond later in the day clarifying that the order applied to “gyms and other indoor fitness clubs or centers, regardless of size.” 

Other Industries

Other industries, however, took the news with much less pushback. 

The waterparks in the state that weren’t already closed announced shutdowns Monday night. 

But the general manager of Sunsplash in Mesa, where the arcade and mini-golf course are remaining open, did say he felt blindsided by the new order. 

“We were keeping people safe. We’re bathing them in disinfectant, out in the hot sun, and we have somehow now been placed in this group that we don’t feel we belong to,” Steve Carlston told ABC 15.

Salt River Tubing also said it would cease operations for the next month, while most movie theaters in the state haven’t even reopened yet and are therefore staying closed. 

RELATED: Arizona, Florida, and Texas See a Surge in COVID Cases. Now Their Governors Are Singing a Different Tune.

As for bars and nightclubs, some had already shut down again before Monday’s order due to law enforcement pressing them to more strictly follow social distancing and other safety guidelines. 

On Thursday, Ducey had announced that Scottsdale Police filed a misdemeanor charge against Riot House in Old Town, while seven other businesses were put on notice. 

One of those seven was El Hefe, which has Arizona locations in Scottsdale and Tempe. Riot Hospitality Group, which owns Riot House, El Hefe, and other bars and restaurants, decided to indefinitely shutter some of their locations Thursday night while they reassessed the situation. 

“We support what Gov. Ducey decided to do with the 30-day close because there’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our customers and our staff and the Old Town community,” spokeswoman Lissa Druss told The Copper Courier.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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