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'Come arrest me': Cedar Rapids gym reopens as owner claims state proclamation violates constitutional rights

Gym members exercise at Custom Fitness in Cedar Rapids on May 11, 2020. (Mary Green/KCRG)
Gym members exercise at Custom Fitness in Cedar Rapids on May 11, 2020. (Mary Green/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: May. 11, 2020 at 8:58 PM CDT
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A Cedar Rapids gym owner said he’s not afraid of facing charges or a fine from police by opening his gym back up because he argues Gov. Kim Reynolds’ public health emergency proclamation violates his constitutional rights.

Right now, gyms in Linn and 21 other counties across the state are only allowed to have one person inside at a time on an appointment-only basis, if they choose to reopen.

But Custom Fitness in Cedar Rapids is letting all of its members walk in and work out whenever they want after reopening Friday.

Owner Jason Bailey is well aware this violates

, signed last Wednesday. But, he said that proclamation infringes on his and his customers’ First Amendment right to assembly.

“When the constitution says that we have unalienable rights that cannot be infringed upon, and when they say something that infringes upon them, I don’t see how you can interpret it any other way,” Bailey said.

The First Amendment might not apply to this situation, but the 14th Amendment could, according to Cedar Rapids attorney Ray Scheetz.

“The 14th Amendment protects people from the government coming in and taking something, and in this case, they haven’t taken anything,” Scheetz said. “They’ve just instructed business owners that they can’t open their businesses, and when that happens, obviously that property right is significantly, significantly diminished.”

Scheetz said there isn’t much legal precedent in this type of situation if Bailey were to challenge the order in court.

“There’s a lot of unknown, gray areas,” Scheetz said. “Nobody really knows the answers to these questions, and that’s why it’s so frustrating to business owners. There’s nowhere that they can go and get a really solid answer in terms of what their rights are, in terms of maintaining their business.”

Besides, he pointed out, the current proclamation is set to expire Friday,

.

“This might all be moot by the time that he hires a lawyer, and the lawyer files the paperwork, and we even get a hearing,” Scheetz said.

Bailey said the way he looks at it, he has a contract with each of his members, and he can’t uphold those contracts if he only allows one person to work out at a time.

“By contract, once I open, I have to charge all of you. So let me charge you, you and you, but only you get to come in,” Bailey said. “I have a problem with that.”

Custom Fitness members who don’t agree with the gym’s stance don’t have to pay, as Bailey said they can freeze their memberships for 90 days with no penalties.

He also claims they’re staying safe inside the gym.

“We are following the medical and the governor’s guidelines in spirit, just not to the letter of the proclamation,” Bailey said.

Bailey noted certain safety measures, like asking customers to only walk in the direction of arrows that are taped on the floor, and unplugging every other exercise machine to follow social distancing guidelines.

Custom Fitness has also paused group classes for now, while wearing masks remains optional.

“I don’t believe we’re putting anybody in harm,” Bailey said. “But I will say that if we’re putting anybody in harm, we’re not putting anybody in harm that did not volunteer to do so.”

The Cedar Rapids Police Department said it is aware of this situation and is investigating it, and Bailey said police told him they were asking the Linn County Attorney to review it.

“I told them to come arrest me," Bailey said. "If they didn’t like it, come arrest me. I called them. I said, ‘I’m across town. Do you want me to come to the gym? Do you want me to check in to the county jail? Do you want me to go the police station? What do you want me to do?’ ‘Well, we don’t need to go there.’ I said, ‘OK, have a good day.’”

People who break any of the governor’s orders during this time could face a simple misdemeanor charge and fine of up to $625, though officers have said these options are last resorts, instead choosing to educate people on what they can and cannot do.

Through Monday, officers had issued eight citations for violating the proclamation, seven of which were connected to a

on April 8, and the other involving a person holding a large gathering on April 25, according to Public Safety Communications Coordinator Greg Buelow.

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