Virginia gym owner says he'll fight charge filed for staying open

Lance Goyke / CC BY 2.0 / MGN
Lance Goyke / CC BY 2.0 / MGN(KALB)
Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 12:16 PM EDT
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The owner of a fitness center in Virginia says he will fight a misdemeanor charge that's been filed against him for defying the state's order for non-essential businesses to close.

The Roanoke Times reported that Thomas Milton, owner of Titan Fit, was cited Sunday by Roanoke police, for violating

.

Greg Phillips, Milton's attorney, said he believes the citation is the first issued in Virginia against the owner of a private fitness club.

Gov. Ralph Northam's order is in effect until May 8, after he announced an extension to it last week. It's designed to protect against the spread of the coronavirus and closes many non-essential businesses, including gyms and recreational facilities, as well as bans gatherings of more than 10 people.

The attorney signaled that Milton would argue the Northam exceeded his authority. He said that Titan Fit is following the same rules for social distancing and cleaning that are set by businesses that have been allowed to remain open.

“Mr. Milton, like so many other small businesses throughout the Commonwealth, is a responsible and deliberate owner who puts the health and well-being of his club members and staff first,” Phillips said. "Mr. Milton respectfully believes that the Governor exceeded his legal power and authority as Governor in the issuance of EO 53, and he will stand and fight against what he believes is an unjust law, and a meritless criminal charge."

The fitness center is a members-only club that employees a staff of four.

Roanoke police said the situation is ongoing and declined to release more information or talk about what led to the charge.

The charge is a Class One Misdemeanor that could carry 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500.

Titan Fit, on Centre Avenue NW in Roanoke, is a private, 24-hour, members-only health and fitness club with four full and part-time employees. According to the statement, about a third of the memberships are regional first responders.