Pierce County gym defying COVID-19 orders being fined nearly $10K per day

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The state has levied a large fine against a Graham gym that is defying Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders meant to slow the spread of the virus.

Graham Fitness was accused of eight violations totaling $77,112 by the state Department of Labor & Industries on Friday for violating the mandate to temporarily close, The News Tribune reported. Owner Michael Knick is operating the business and vows to keep it open, despite the fines which amount to nearly $10,000 per day.

“They can fine me whatever they want,” Knick said Friday. “I don’t have it.”

The gym was ordered to shut down on Dec. 2. L&I issued an order and notice of immediate restraint to the business after complaints were received, according to L&I spokesman Tim Church. The fines issued Friday cover Nov. 30-Dec. 7.

“He had employees and continued to be open, putting them at risk,” Church said Friday.

The governor’s Safe Start orders prohibit gyms and fitness centers from operating. Knick says he’ll go out of business if he’s forced to close.

On Dec. 6, Knick posted on social media that employees are no longer working at the gym, which he said Friday means he doesn’t fall under L&I’s jurisdiction. Knick said he and the business take precautions against spreading COVID-19, but he does not enforce the use of masks at Graham Fitness.

L&I said it will be working with the state attorney general’s office and Inslee’s office to determine if further action is needed, Church said.