The New Jersey gym owner who was fined $1.2 million for defying Gov. Murphy’s lockdown slammed the pandemic restrictions while addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday.
Ian Smith, 33, whose Atilis Gym in Bellmawr repeatedly refused to comply with COVID-19 lockdown orders, told the Orlando convention that the state government directive unfairly targeted small businesses and violated his constitutional rights.
“First of all, the entire thing from start to finish has been trampling on numerous parts of the Constitution,” Smith told the CPAC crowd while speaking on a panel that discussed the role of local governments in shaping lockdown policy.
“The taking clause is one of them [and] you’re guaranteed in the Constitution the right to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness, and if there is an instance where the government must come in and suspend that then you should be justly compensated,” he said.
Smith said the Garden State mandates were put in place without due process or “clear or substantive science put forth.”
“If that information was presented, we would have shut down,” he told the conservative crowd. “I think that we all as Americans care about each other and want to do the right thing.”
Smith told the audience he went to great lengths to exercise his rights as a business owner, including researching the deadly virus and putting together a multipoint safety code for mitigating its spread in the gym.
“We [co-owner Frank Trumbetti and myself] wanted to go beyond what the state and point out the absurdity and double standard, but that wasn’t enough for Governor Murphy because it went against the narrative he was pushing,” he said.
Former Republican US Senate candidate Rik Mehta made the gym a campaign headquarters in August, temporarily circumventing the lockdown orders.
That month, the gym owners kicked down the boarded up door of Atilis Gym after being arrested for undermining the state’s rules.
Smith has previously claimed that no cases of the virus were linked to his facility, despite 83,000 visits during the pandemic.
CPAC began Friday morning after being moved from Washington, DC, to Florida due to more lenient coronavirus restrictions.