A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge on Monday ordered the temporary closure of a Buellton gym after officials sued the business over alleged violations of COVID-19 health orders.
Judge Jed Beebe issued a temporary restraining order requiring All Sport Fitness Center, located at 85 Industrial Parkway, to close after it was accused of violating state unfair business practices by operating despite state and local health orders issued to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to a Superior Court lawsuit filed Aug. 24.
The violations stemmed from several warnings that Buellton code enforcement and county officials issued since June to the gym's owner, David Henrey, who has continued to operate despite the health orders and the warnings.
The temporary restraining order will remain in place until Sept. 11, when Beebe will determine whether to issue a preliminary injunction that will prohibit All Sport from violating the public health orders throughout the duration of the case, according to District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Morgan Lucas.
A total of 14 Santa Barbara County schools and school districts have submitted applications for waivers to reopen classrooms for in-person instruction, and 10 of those are expected to go to the state for approval Wednesday, the county health officer said Tuesday.
A county health order issued on July 14 required gyms to close, unless they can modify their businesses to operate outdoors. An Aug. 12 order continued that closure until Sept. 10, unless it is extended or rescinded.
Since June, Henrey has continued to operate indoors, resisting orders and warnings to close from numerous county officials.
Henry did not respond to calls for comment but posted on social media that he plans to challenge the closure at the next court hearing.
"To all our loyal members please know that I will fight and make this right," Henrey said on his Facebook page Aug. 31. "[I] remained because I felt our members needed it and I needed to support my family."
The warnings began on June 3 when Ben Hernandez, a Buellton code enforcement officer, visited the gym and told Henrey his gym was not allowed to be open, according to court records.
Henrey acknowledged the warning but replied that his gym was an essential business because he also sells masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment. He said he has taken measures that include spacing equipment at least 6 feet apart, taking members' temperatures, requiring face masks and making members sign a liability waiver.
Additionally, acting on advice from his attorney, Henrey told Hernandez his gym was "not open to the public and members only," according to the lawsuit.
Officials contacted Henrey several more times in July and August, including two more visits from Hernandez on July 15 and Aug. 12, two visits from District Attorney's Office Investigator Kristina Perkins on Aug. 5 and 21 and a telephone conversation with Environmental Health Services Director Lawrence Fay on July 23.
Each time, Henrey said he wasn't closing, according to court documents.
"He responded that he believed that he cannot be compelled to close, which would result in the loss of his business," Fay said.
On Aug. 28, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued "A Blueprint for A Safer Economy," or a color-coded, tiered reopening system that allows businesses to operate and graduate to less restrictive tiers if the number of coronavirus cases drops below certain thresholds.
Santa Barbara County is coded purple, or the most restrictive tier, meaning that gyms cannot operate indoors because the coronavirus risk level is "widespread," or that new confirmed cases exceed seven or more per 100,000 people.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.