Conshohocken gym owner says he must defy shutdown orders or risk losing his business

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A Conshohocken gym owner said he has no choice but to defy Governor Tom Wolf's shut down order or risk losing his business altogether. He plans on re-opening Monday.

"We're kind of at the end of our rope unless we do something," said owner Collin Whitney. "We're going to be out anyway."

Whitney opened PWRBLD gym six months prior to the pandemic before having to close up shop.

"Initially we were on board," said Whitney. "I think everyone was complying...(but then) the two week shutdown, then the month shutdown, and then the shutdown just continued to be extended and it seemed like small businesses were told 'just wait.'"

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Finishing the second month of Pennsylvania's shutdown order, small gym owners said no one knows when they can re-open and they're getting desperate as the bills pile up.

"It's going to be very difficult if we stay closed for two months," said F45 Bala Cynwyd owner Marysel Jones. "I don't know what's going to happen."

Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President Gene Barr said he predicts multiple businesses will quietly reopen as the pandemic continues, with Pennsylvania imposing the strictest shut down orders in the country.

"Businesses are in a tough position because they've got to look at, 'Do I risk losing my license or do I risk losing my total business because I can't come back, at which case my license is irrelevant,'" said Barr.

Since March 23, Pennsylvania State Police troopers issued 329 warnings and one citation to businesses. They said ultimately, it's up to local police and the district attorney to pursue charges.

"The decision whether to issue a warning or a citation is made on a case-by-case basis and determined by the unique circumstances of each encounter," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Jessica Tobin.

Montgomery County spokesperson Teresa Harris said, "Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners stated in a press briefing yesterday that since the stay-at-home and nonessential business closures are the governor's orders, that enforcement would need to come from the governor."

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Action News reached out to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro for comment if his office will pursue charges. A spokesperson referred to state police and Governor Tom Wolf for answers.

When asked for comment and clarification on charges, Governor Wolf's office did not provide a statement in time for broadcast.

Whitney said he will not open his gym "recklessly and will follow all CDC guidelines, including limiting the number of people admitted, using hand sanitizer and requiring advance scheduling."

"The gym and training people is what pays the bills, keeps food on the table, keeps a roof over my head, so without that where are we left?" asked Whitney.

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