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Authorities change locks at Massachusetts gym defying coronavirus closure

Daniella Genovese

Massachusetts officials changed the locks at a gym that reopened early from the state's coronavirus lockdown, after shutting off power and water failed to deter members who showed up wearing helmet lamps.

Members returned to work out early Thursday morning with their own lighting, Prime Fitness owner David Blondin told FOX Business. Some even posted to Instagram, "No power, no problem."

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Blondin resumed operations at the Oxford, Massachusetts, location on May 18 despite the state being in only the first phase of reopening its economy. Per Gov. Charlie Baker's phased reopening plan, fitness centers and health clubs are prohibited from reopening until the state enters phase three.

However, Blondin said loans from the government's Paycheck Protection Program had run out around May 18, after covering the facility that housed not only the gym but his nutrition store, for eight weeks.

"Enough is enough," said Blondin. "With the support of my members, I was willing to fight to stay open."

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On May 18, Blondin received a verbal warning from officials followed by a written warning the next day. By May 20, Blondin started getting fined more than $300 per day, he said. Last week, the fines surged to about $1,000 per day. Blondin was then notified that the gym's water and electricity would be shut off by Wednesday.

When Blondin's members came back, armed with gear to workout in the dark, officials changed the locks, barring anyone from entering, even Blondin.

"This action was taken in the clear interest of protecting public health and safety," attorney Mark Reich, who is representing the town, told NBC News, regarding the order issued by the Worcester Superior Court that shut off power and water at the gym.

"The operation of a gym is not currently permitted under the governor’s phased reopening plan," he said. "The court has since found the operator in contempt and has ordered the town to take action to address this public health threat. That is the basis for this action."

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Reich didn't immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.

"I truly believe it was unconstitutional to keep businesses closed for that extent of time," Blondin argued. "Why can these big-box stores open but small businesses can't?"

For him, the fight is far from over.

On Saturday, Blondin plans to protest outside the gym and he's calling for support through a video message across his social media accounts.

"This is open to ALL members and non-members who want to fight, protest, and 'train.' Let’s make this the biggest event Massachusetts and the fitness industry has seen," he wrote.

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Blondin said, "the protest is not just about gyms anymore but all small business" as well as mental health.

"Gyms are an outlet for mental health," he said. "To rip that away from people is wrong."

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