Gym owner: Cops ‘cut my b—s’ off because of Bellmawr ‘f—ing monkeys’
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Atilis gym in Egg Harbor Township — owned by a different individual than the franchisees in Bellmawr who've seen national media attention for repeatedly defying Gov. Phil Murphy's executive orders shutting gyms — was also caught operating illegally last week, police say.
And Chris Lambert, the Egg Harbor Township gym owner, blames his peers in Bellmawr for the attention.
"The local (police department) came in and basically cut my b---s off," Lambert says in a five-minute video posted to Instagram and Facebook (caution: the video contains occasional profanity) in which he rails against both Murphy for keeping gyms closed and the Bellmawr franchisees for picking a fight with the governor. By contrast, Lambert, a former police officer, says he has "nothing against" the Egg Harbor Township police, who were "only doing your job" after receiving complaints.
Lambert said "a lot of people get jealous" of a business still operating amid the restrictions. Murphy shut down almost all retail and other public-facing businesses in March in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, but has since relaxed restrictions. Retail stores are allowed to operate at partial capacity, and outdoor dining is allowed, but general-attendance gyms remain shut. Only by-appointment personal training is currently allowed.
Lambert said in the days before police "cut my b---s off" — police confirmed to New Jersey 101.5 that meant he was issued a citation for violating the governor's executive orders — someone had made a video of him giving prices another person. He said he wished the person making the video stuck around.
"I would have gave him a real freaking good video," Lambert said in his social media.
An article by New Jersey 101.5 sister station Cat Country 107.3 last week had noted the Egg Harbor Township Atilis location appeared to be operating. That article has since been taken town, and its author, Joe Kelly, wrote another apologizing, saying it was "unnecessary to bring attention to the business."
(Cat Country 107.3 and New Jersey 101.5 are both owned by Townsquare media, but have separate local management and editorial teams.)
"Atilis Gym is a great local establishment, just trying to get by," Kelly wrote. "They've got a great local membership, and after talking with Chris Lambert, it certainly sounds like they are doing things the right way."
Police didn't see it that way. Capt. Mike Hughes told New Jersey 101.5 that when he responded to a complaint last week, he found 75 to 100 people working out in the gym. Another order from Murphy prohibits indoor gatherings to a maximum of 25 people, though just a few weeks ago, as many as 100 were allowed. Hughes said none of the individuals appeared to be working with by-appointment trainers, as allowed under the current orders.
None of the patrons were issues citations, Hughes said.
A sign on the door pictured in Kelly's original article described the gym as a private organization, a tactic a few gyms — including Bellmawr's — have argued makes them exempt from the state restriction. It's not clear whether that makes any legal difference.
"Not to me," Hughes said.
In Lambert's video, he criticizes Bellmawr gym owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti — who have repeatedly opened their business in defiance of not only the state order, but local health department and court orders shutting them down, and who are currently facing the threat of a $10,000 a day fine and jail time — for "jumping around like two little f---ing monkeys" and drawing the governor's ire.
Lambert had previously worked to develop a coalition of gyms to agree on safe operating practices and urge the state to allow them to reopen. He said the Bellmawr owners wanted to "lead the pack" to collect GoFundMe campaign money from supporters and get national exposure.
An attorney for the Bellmawr gym owners has not yet returned a call from New Jersey 101.5 seeking comment on Lambert's video.
"This governor is vindictive," Lambert says in the video. "This governor will not allow gyms to open while he's got to deal with their a--es."
Murphy has said often at his regular coronavirus media briefings that gyms pose a particular challenge to public health amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandeic because indoor workouts involve a lot of heavy breathing in stationary settings.
Lambert said going forward, he'll only be allowing personal training, by appointment, as the current state restrictions allow.
"I did everything I could to keep the at gym in Egg Harbor open and running, but I need my b---s," he said.