Courthouse Club Fitness in west Salem. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
Salem’s Courthouse Club Fitness has remained open despite facing a $90,000 fine for violating state Covid restrictions and could face further penalties.
The gym refused to close following a Nov. 17 order from Gov. Kate Brown which required all fitness centers in Oregon to shut down in response to rising Covid cases.
Soon after, John Miller, the president of Courthouse, posted on social media that the gym would stay open in defiance of the order. Miller indicated that the gym would not survive another closure and staying open is the “most responsible for our members, our staff, and our community.”
Later that month, Courthouse was cited by the Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Administration for keeping four of its gyms open, potentially exposing its employees to Covid. The company has a fifth gym in south Salem that has been under construction.
Courthouse is appealing all four of its citations, according to Aaron Corvin, agency spokesman. Miller is represented by Salem attorney Tyler Malstrom, who did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The appeal filed by Malstrom argues that Courthouse is following safety protocols and there is no “objective evidence” that the business poses a risk by being open. It further argues that the governor's order violates the state and federal constitutions.
Since being given the citations, records show that eight complaints have been filed with the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Courthouse for staying open in defiance of the orders.
Courthouse’s continued defiance of state Covid orders comes as Gov. Kate Brown has cautioned businesses against reopening. Gyms are among a handful of businesses, along with museums and zoos, that cannot operate in Oregon so long as Covid cases remain high in the county they are located in.
Last week, the governor warned that if businesses reopen too early it will create new spikes of Covid cases, delaying restrictions from being eased. She also said that agencies like the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration would take action against businesses that don’t comply with her order.
Corvin said in an email that the agency has another open inspection of Courthouse but couldn’t discuss further details.
On New Year’s Day, the gym took to Facebook, to announce that it would be open that day and the next.
“We know that no matter what happens in the New Year, we can get through it with the support of members like you!” read the company’s post.
Courthouse did not respond to an email seeking comment nor a message sent to its media page as of Monday afternoon. John Miller, the company’s president, has not responded to previous requests for comment. A customer service representative confirmed on Monday that its locations are open.
The Oregon Health Authority’s most recent weekly report on workplace outbreaks does not list Courthouse. Workplaces are listed if five or more Covid cases are tied to one location.
This story has been updated with additional information about Courthouse's appeal.
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Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.