By MADDY VITALE
Chris Lambert, who owns four Atilis gyms, says he will be ready to reopen as soon as Gov. Phil Murphy gives the order – but not a moment sooner.
His comments came two days after the franchise owners of the Atilis in Bellmawr chose to ignore Murphy’s order that deems gyms as non-essential businesses that are to remain closed for now amid the COVID-19 safety regulations and restrictions in place since March.
Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti are the owners of the Atilis location that violated the executive order of the governor. And while Lambert does not own the location, he is the franchisor
“I financially back the gym, but I do not agree with them,” Lambert said of Smith and Trumbetti. “As a franchise owner, I will respect that they will do what they think is best. But in my opinion, it is not doing any good for all of the other New Jersey gym owners. It is causing conflict and setting the process back.”
Lambert, a former Lower Township police officer, and his wife, Lesya, run successful Atilis gyms, priding themselves on providing to members an authentic, hardcore fitness center. Their locations in Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Wildwood and Egg Harbor Township have thousands of members.
While the gyms are shuttered, the Lamberts and a group of other New Jersey gym owners have joined together to voice their opinions about how they believe the best and safest way to reopen would be and present it to the governor’s office.
On Monday, in a teleconference with the governor’s staff, but not the governor, Lambert said the group put a proposal on the “virtual” table on how to reopen safely for the physical well being of the gym members.
“Last week we spoke with Congressman Jeff Van Drew. Then on Monday, we all called in to a designated number where we spoke with the governor’s chief of staff and head of the coronavirus task force and other high-ranking members,” Lambert explained.
Lambert believes the governor was not on the call because of the Bellmawr Atilis gym incident.
“I believe he did not want to partake, in my opinion, due to the franchise situation in Bellmawr,” Lambert noted.
Nevertheless, he said, the discussion was very positive between gym owners and the governor’s staff.
“The governor’s office said it was a great proposal,” Lambert said, adding that he did not want to publicly share a copy of the group’s proposal since nothing is approved yet.
He explained how the gym owners designed a way to safely reopen.
“We feel confident, as a smaller business, that we could put in safety guidelines and control our membership base,” he said.
Some of the ways Lambert and other gym owners believe they could and should be able to reopen is not only for fitness buffs and people who are health conscious, but because they can do so while limiting the number of people in and out of the businesses at any given time.
“We, as a group, have shown how a gym is beneficial,” Lambert said. “If you are allowed to sell paint or gardening supplies or liquor, why can’t you open a gym?”
He continued, “The governor is all about safety, and he should be. The problem we see right now is the amount of harm for so many people not coming to the gym.”
The Lamberts have not had too much down time, if any, despite the closures.
Chris Lambert said he is in one of his four Atilis gyms each day gearing up for the eventual opening. Sanitizing all of his locations is a big priority of his, he stressed.
“I am here every day, Monday through Sunday, at one of my locations working, remodeling, and cleaning,” Lambert said. “When the governor says we can open, we will be ready to go.”
For gym locations and more information on Atilis Gym visit: www.atilisgym.com