“I’m calling his bluff”

Lebanon gym reopens, encourages other businesses to follow suit

A sign outside the Fit4All gym, located at 220 E St. Louis Street in Lebanon, announces the business’s reopening. (Photo courtesy of David Tate)

David Tate, the owner of Fit4All Gym in Lebanon, has reopened his business with the assistance of Attorney Tom DeVore in defiance of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s stay at home order.

In a social media post, Tate said he understands that some people will be upset by his decision, but as a husband and a father to a baby girl, Reagan, the loss of income was crushing. Tate said he has had no relief from the state or the Small Business Association.

“You will see in the coming days/months how this is financially destroying businesses across the U.S. and especially Illinois. As business owners, all of our overhead, mortgages, utilities, taxes, insurance, etc., are all still due on time,” he wrote, adding that he feared remaining closed would be a death blow to his business and a disservice to the community.

He understood the initial order, and complied to protect his staff and clientele.

He also took into account information from his wife, Mollie, a respiratory therapist, before taking the steps to reopen.

David, Mollie, and Reagan Tate. (Photo courtesy of David Tate)

Tate reached out to the attorney who responded swiftly. DeVore is also representing other businesses, including some in nearby Clinton County.

DeVore represented Illinois State Representative Darren Bailey, R-Xenia in a lawsuit against Gov. Pritzker, stating the extension of the stay at home orders was unconstitutional. Pritzker issued stay at home orders in March and has extended them to May 31. Gyms had not bee deemed essential businesses and would reopen in Phase 3 of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan. The Southern Region is on target to reopen as of May 31, according to Illinois Department of Public Health Metrics.

“I told him about my business and what I wanted to do, and as far as I know, I’m his first case in St. Clair County. We sent the paperwork in, and he gave the St. Clair County Health Department and State’s Attorney 48 hours to comply with a court order identifying what it is that causes me to be a public health concern. There was no response, and by there being no response, that was basically them stating that I wasn’t, which allowed me to reopen,” said Tate.

“Everything that he used was the statutes for Illinois, the state constitution and the United States Constitution, all stating that this is a gross overreach, and basically stating what we all knew- this just isn’t right. They were also supposed to let businesses know I writing why we had to shut down and for how long, and they didn’t, so it didn’t jive for them to shut us down through a press conference,” he said.

Including staff members, only 14 people can be in the gym at one time, per the square footage ratio. Tate recently expanded the gym, giving an additional space that’s beneficial for the plan. Gym members are required to take their temperatures with a touchless thermometer and sign waivers before re-entering.

Tate also is keeping to strict cleanliness standards, many of which were in place before the virus hit the area. He sanitized the gym before reopening and is asking gym members to help wipe equipment that they use with Clorox or Lysol wipes before moving to the next machine. Members who don’t clean will be issued warnings or ultimately have their membership revoked. He is also sanitizing the gym each night at closing, which is now 10:00 p.m., with opening at 5:00 a.m.

Community response has been “beyond expectations. I have not had one negative response or criticism, and I was expecting it. I think what you’re seeing is that all the voices you heard, just like anything else in politics, one side is fired up and the other side doesn’t speak up out of fear of being lambasted. Then one person speaks up, and the silent majority supports them,” said Tate.

On the first day of being reopen, he had dozens of members return, as well as 11 new memberships, and he said many of the clientele have lost strength and gained weight, “which is a public health risk in itself.” He added that physical fitness is essential to living healthy lives, especially in times of stress.

Talking about Gov. Pritzker, David Tate said “I’m calling his bluff.” (Photo courtesy of David Tate)

Tate holds a degree in Exercise Science from California University (Cal U) in Pennsylvania. He also holds a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certificate that qualifies him to give personal training and nutritional coaching.

“Doing what I do, personal training, is kind of like being a therapist for an hour. We have lots of members on medication for depression or anxiety, and a workout is kind of like meditation to them. When they can’t do it for extended periods of time, it takes a toll on mental health. If you know the psychology of fitness, which I’ve done this since 2008, managed larger gyms and worked with thousands of people, and have had my own gym since 2015- people have self-image issues, or body dysmorphia, and leading up to summer, it can really make people uncomfortable and it messes with their self-esteem. It causes a trickle effect on mental health,” he said.

Tate said he’s fine to be the first in the county, and he hopes other business owners feel encouraged and emboldened by his actions. “You took a risk when you opened your business, you had a lot to lose when you opened, and you have to take the risk here and bite the bullet. The bills are still due, you have no income and nothing to lose. If the state wants to attack us, they’ll have to attack a lot of us, and they can’t get everyone. If you look at the percentage of small businesses that will never reopen, what else are we supposed to do? Are they going to take our licenses away, from 60 percent of businesses that have been pushed to the edge? I’m calling his bluff. Pritzker was a business owner himself- he knows this is unsustainable,” he said.

Tate was served on Monday by St. Clair County with a copy of the Governor’s order, but he was not told to close. “When you see what Tom has to say and the reasons behind it, I’m not scared an ounce bout what he can do. If somehow I was to lose, the state should be fearful, because it means that our state statutes and constitution have no meaning for citizens,” he said.

He continued “The government is telling you as a citizen that you’re too dumb to take precautions for yourself. It’s like being grounded for something you haven’t done. They need to give people a chance. There’s a reason other states with less restrictions have lower numbers- it’s not the restrictions, it’s the people. I would never, whether this was in place or not, go to a nursing home where my family might be, where I could get them sick, whether it’s this virus or a regular flu season. People have to have common sense, and if you don’t have trust in people to have that, what the hell is the point of us being a free nation?”

Tate initially froze all accounts when the gym closed, and all accounts were reopened as of May 11. He is offering to freeze accounts for members that are high-risk or that are fearful of coming into the gym for themselves or family members, or he and other staff members will work to come up with at-home fitness plans. “Whichever they prefer without hesitation. I try to know my members and their needs- I want to take care of them, whatever it is they need.”

“If we don’t do something now, I’m fearful of what business bankruptcies across the state will do to our home values, our school systems,” he said, adding that with residents fleeing Illinois due to taxes nd responsibility falling on others, he fears businesses cannot continue to survive in Illinois.

To inquire about membership, visit Fit4All on Facebook or Fit4online.com, email Fit4all@outlook.com, or call (618) 808-0606.