North Carolina gym owners file restraining order against governor to reopen


GREENSBORO, N.C. — About 36,000 people across North Carolina have signed a petition to try and get Gov. Roy Cooper to allow health clubs to open.

Initially, these facilities were included in Phase 2 of opening up the state, but at the last minute, they were left out.

Now, some gym owners are taking legal action to change that.

“It’s a restraining order against the governor and his order. So while we’re under this restraining order, we can basically open.” Ed Smith said.

Smith is the owner of a dozen Fit4Life gyms on the East Coast, including a location off of Hicone Road in Greensboro.

He’s also the man who joined forces with some other facility owners to take legal action on behalf of all health clubs in North Carolina.

“We’re doing it for every health club owner or yoga studio or dance studio in this state,” Smith said. “We’re representing everybody.”

Smith tells FOX8 if Cooper fights the restraining order, they will change it to a suit, because he believes in the benefits of working out.

He’s working with Chuck Kitchen, the attorney who also worked on behalf of hair salons, when they were prepared to file a suit against Cooper.

Smith’s supporters feel the same way.

“We’ve been kept from helping our people improve their health. That’s all we want to do. We feel like we’re being denied the opportunity and the right to do that,” David Stacy said.

Stacy owns Octagon MMA & Krav Maga in Greensboro.

He feels very strongly about the need to reopen his facility, which is why he both signed the petition and donated to help cover legal fees associated with the order.

Stacy says he thinks the benefits outweigh the risks that some people believe gyms reopening may have.

“I can’t imagine comparing the cleanliness levels of a fitness facility, that’s constantly cleaning, to a home improvement store or a grocery store, where people are coming in and touching everything,” he said.

That sentiment is echoed by other gym owners in the Piedmont Triad.

“Getting a tattoo or a hair cut or your nails done is a little more personal and close than say a gym would be,” Michael O’Byrne said.

O’Byrne and Jody Wayne Bullard are anxious to allow people back into CrossFit FirePit in Greensboro.

The two men say there are numerous health benefits.

“One client in particular is off 12 medications because of what we do,” Bullard said. “It’s more than just coming in and exercising, we’re helping them with their healthy lifestyle. We need to be open.”

Both O’Byrne and Bullard also believe working out can help with mental health. They say many people are struggling with isolation and stress right now.

“We’ve had members lose family members to suicide during this time,” Bullard said. “We know what fitness does to help people release anxiety and that stress. People depend on it.”

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