CLARKS SUMMIT, Pa. — Gyms are one of the businesses Governor Wolf shut down for much of this month in an effort to curb COVID-19 infections.
But Brown's Gym in Clarks Summit opened its doors this week anyway, a move owner Jim Brown insists is not a political statement, rather a financial necessity.
"I didn't do it to rebel against the governor. I didn't do it to rebel against the government. I wasn't trying to make a point here. We frankly just didn't have a choice," Brown said.
Brown said he and his wife made the tough decision to reopen after going over next month's bills. His rent is going up, and he's already had to borrow $200,000 this year.
Brown said he had to make some revenue before the restrictions end on January 4.
Lee Meyers was working out at Brown's Tuesday afternoon. He wasn't a member of the gym before this week but told Newswatch 16 he plans to become one because it's the only gym in the area that's open.
"I see everybody working together and wiping down machines, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks while they're working out, and doing everything they can to be safe. It's easy to be social distanced from each other in here," Meyers added.
But even with new members, Jim Brown said he's lost half of his client base throughout the pandemic, making long-term survival even more unlikely.
And there could be legal repercussions, too. He is worried he could be forced to close again, but that was a risk Brown says he's been forced to take.
"They will have wasted the last 28 years of my life doing so. My wife and I have gone the full distance on this. We've given our retirements back; we've given every dime we've ever made back. We haven't had a paycheck since January 15 of 2020. There's no more left to take from me, so if they come in and close the doors on me, it's theirs," he said.
The Clarks Summit police chief said he would issue a warning to Brown's Gym first for violating the state restrictions. What happens after that is unclear.
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