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Salem gym fined $126K for staying open in violation of COVID-19 restrictions

Courthouse Club Fitness was previously fined $90,000 for staying open during the two-week statewide freeze in November.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Courthouse Club Fitness has been fined $126,749 for keeping a Salem facility open despite COVID-19 restrictions in place that mandate the closure of indoor fitness facilities. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it is the largest penalty the agency has levied against an employer for violations related to COVID-19. It is the maximum fine that can be issued for a “willful” violation.

The company was previously fined $90,000 in November after Oregon OSHA inspectors discovered four Salem-area locations were open in defiance of a two-week statewide freeze that was in effect in Oregon.

Since then the state has implemented a new framework for coronavirus-related restrictions, which places counties into four “risk levels” based on the spread of COVID-19. Marion County has remained in the “extreme risk” category since the statewide freeze, meaning indoor fitness facilities must be closed.

According to Oregon OSHA, an inspection was done Dec. 9 at the Courthouse Club Fitness facility on Commercial Street Southeast. The inspection came after more complaints against the gym. Oregon OSHA said the gym was still open to member clients, again in violation of COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, Oregon OSHA issued the additional maximum $126,749 fine.

“We understand that this employer is attempting to do a number of things to keep employees safe without shutting down, but that does not allow them to substitute their judgment for that of the public health authorities,” said Oregon OSHA administrator Michael Wood

Courthouse Club Fitness has 30 days to appeal the citation. It has already appealed the previous November fine.

In a letter posted to Facebook Tuesday afternoon, the owner of Courthouse Club Fitness, John Miller, said he still plans to remain open.

“I repeat my pledge to support any reasonable request to help in the fight against COVID,” Miller wrote, in part, in the letter. “Voluntarily bankrupting a business my members depend on for their health, and 300 employees depend on for a living, is not reasonable. Two months into our second 'two-week freeze' and I am still left with only one reasonable course of action; remain safe…and open.”