'The time is now:' Group of NC gym owners planning legal action against Gov. Cooper's order to stay closed

Organizers of a newly created Facebook group, comprised of more than 6,000 members, plan to take Governor Roy Cooper's omission of gyms from Phase 2 to court.

Kelli and Paul Humphreys are a part of this group known as "ReOpen NC's Health Clubs."

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The couple are owners of 11 Fit4Life locations around North Carolina, including three sites in the Fayetteville area.

"You know, the time is now, and we need to get open for our members. But also, for our employees," Paul said.

North Carolina will move into Phase 2; Salons, restaurants can reopen but gyms must stay closed

Gym owners statewide have been growing restless, ever since they learned last week that they wouldn't be opening up on Friday evening, something many fitness establishments were expecting.

The three-day old Facebook group has raised nearly $24,000 for legal fees.

Ed Smith, an owner of other N.C. Fit4Life locations and organizer of the group, said they've hired on Raleigh-based attorney Chuck Kitchen to assist them in taking legal action Wednesday.

"Hopefully, we can be in front of a judge by the end of the week and just let him know we're not going to stand for this," Smith said.

This comes weeks after a judge temporarily blocked Cooper's ruling for churches, allowing them to re-open until a hearing on May 29.
The Humphreys said the legal filing will prove that the fitness industry is essential and their rights are being infringed upon.

"Depression is huge right now. We've had many of our trainers who are doing one-on-ones with clients that aren't doing well, and then, we have physical problems," Kelli said.

Governor Cooper decided to hold off on gyms in Phase 2, because he says there's a greater risk of the spread of COVID-19.

Gym owners argue they can keep their facilities sanitized and offer precautions to ensure gyms are safe for those members willing to return right now.

"We've put all that precautions in place to make sure that it's a safe, comfortable environment where they have no fear of germs being spread," Kelli said.

The Humphreys and Smith told ABC11, regardless of a judge's ruling, they intend to open their doors on June 1.

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