Defiant Rutland fitness club owner violates emergency order

Published: May. 8, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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What is Vermont doing to hold businesses accountable that don't follow the governor's executive order? A defiant Rutland fitness club owner reopened last week, arguing that working out is good for physical and mental health and that if his members can socially distance, he should be allowed to reopen.

"I want to stand up for what I believe in and I just want fitness to open safely and soon because I think it is so important," said Sean Manovill, the owner of Club Fitness Rutland.

He opened the doors to his gym on May 1st. Under Governor Scott's executive order, gyms are not considered essential and should not reopen until given the okay -- potentially May 15 at the earliest.

"I don't see it as going against the compliance, I really don't. This decision was not a chance for me selfishly to gain exposure. I don't want to get into the situation where I am in a battle with the state or other health clubs in the area. As far as compliance on opening up and shutting down, for me, I just thought as an opportunity to give people an outlet that they need desperately," Manovill said.

Rutland City Police have visited the club multiple times and said they were only there to educate and seek voluntary compliance with the governor's orders. They did not issue any citations.

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says he told his team to work with Vermonters first and find a creative solution before taking things to court. Manovill was issued a cease and desist order Friday.

"I had a good talk with Sean yesterday and a couple times this morning and while we disagree, I can certainly understand where he's coming from and I respect the fact that he was willing to compromise and close his business for a week and not go to court and just wait," Donovan said.

"While I sympathize with him, it isn't fair to all of the other businesses who did the right thing and put us into the position that we are today. We're one of the leaders in the nation in terms of compliance and we will be a stronger economy as a result if we do this right," Gov. Scott said Friday.

"It's not about me being part of something bigger, it's about me helping my Club Fitness family get back to life as usual," Manovill said.

He says there have been no more than ten people in the gym at a time and that he's dedicated to cleanliness, especially during these times. He hopes to speak further with state officials to discuss ways health and fitness centers across Vermont can start reopening their doors soon.