Group of health clubs, gyms file lawsuit against the governor

By Lindsay Marchello
Carolina Journal News Service

RALEIGH — Health clubs, gyms, spas, and karate dojos have joined to file a lawsuit against Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order keeping their businesses closed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The lawsuit is the latest challenge of Cooper’s response to COVID-19. In the motion for relief, the business owners say Cooper’s shutdown denies them the right in the N.C. Constitution to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

The partial reopening of the economy, which Cooper has dubbed “Safer at Home Phase Two,” allows some businesses to open at limited capacity. But fitness centers, gyms, and spas were left behind.

Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, announced in a Wednesday, May 27 news release that gyms, spas, fitness centers, and karate dojos are all essential businesses.

“Governor Cooper fails to realize that they are not there as social clubs,” Kidwell said. “They are an essential part of the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.”

Chuck Kitchen, a Cary attorney, is representing the business owners.

Kidwell is no stranger to challenging Cooper’s COVID-19 executive orders. The Beaufort lawmaker previously helped organize a lawsuit from churches demanding indoor worship services be permitted despite a ban on mass gatherings. A federal judge ruled in favor of the churches. Cooper didn’t appeal the decision.

Kidwell and Kitchen joined forces when a coalition of hair salons wanted to challenge the executive order preventing them from conducting business. The group threatened to file a lawsuit if Cooper didn’t allow them to reopen by May 18. On May 20, the governor issued an executive order ushering the state into Phase Two of reopening, which allowed hair salons to serve customers at 50% capacity starting May 22.

More lawsuits challenging the executive orders may be coming.

“This injustice to the business owners cannot be permitted to continue, and we are confident the court will find in favor of the business owners as it did with the churches,” Kidwell said.