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Mountainside Fitness CEO vows to reopen, despite being denied approval by ADHS

Posted at 11:54 AM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 21:44:39-04

Editor's note: On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Cara Christ, director of Arizona Department of Health Services, said in a blog post that Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima counties would "likely" meet the benchmarks to move into the next phase -- "moderate" phase -- of reopening. That phase allows indoor fitness centers and gyms to reopen at 25% capacity, while some bars (that serve food), movie theaters, water parks, and tube operators can reopen at 50%. Businesses must also sign an attestation form, agreeing to follow the state's reopening guidance, which requires masks, employee temperature checks, increased cleaning, and social distancing, among other specifications.

The fight between Mountainside Fitness and the state of Arizona continues.

Tom Hatten, CEO and founder of Mountainside Fitness, vowed Tuesday to reopen his fitness centers to its members at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, Aug, 27, despite the Arizona Department of Health Services denying his application to reopen. He also vowed in a news release to defend his actions should ADHS come after them with enforcement.

Hatten said he received certification from HealthyVerify, billed on its website as "the country’s only independent medically-based, scientific and professional full-service certification company," and believes those protocols go beyond the state's requirements.

He also accused the state's approval process of being "political" and "subjective" with no clear guidance posted for gyms and other businesses to be approved.

"Without our lawsuit, there would not have been a process to re-opening and now that ‘pathway’ is simply a guess for all that apply, resulting in an overwhelming amount of denials. Our stance was simple. We pushed for the right of businesses to stay open, and for the State to have the obligation to show proof or evidence of these subjective closures," Hatten said in a statement.

"We believe the HealthyVerify certification is more in depth than other subjective unknown waiver guidelines the state is unwilling to make public. If we are met with action from the AZDHS, I can assure you that we will be ready to defend our actions," he said.

Mountainside Fitness filed a lawsuit against Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in June and claimed that his executive orders that closed gyms, movie theaters, and water parks in the state amid a spike in COVID-19 cases were arbitrary and violated due process. A judge agreed and ordered the Governor's Office to create an application process for businesses, but did not require that those businesses had to be allowed to reopen.

Gov. Ducey has appealed that ruling.

The Governor's Office also released a list of benchmarks that were required to be met before gyms, movie theaters, and water parks would be allowed to reopen, even at reduced capacity. However, despite some counties not meeting all of the benchmarks, ADHS has been approving businesses to reopen over the last few weeks.

As of Monday afternoon, ADHS has approved 102 businesses -- mostly gyms, but some bars and movie theaters -- to reopen and denied 202, mostly bars and fitness centers. More than 1,100 applications have been submitted and ADHS' staff members are working to get through them, Steve Elliott, communications director for ADHS, said previously.

LIST: Arizona bars, gyms, and theaters approved to reopen by Department of Health Services

Mountainside's CEO has been defiant of closure orders from the beginning of the pandemic. Some of his fitness centers were cited by police in June for remaining open, despite the governor's executive orders requiring fitness centers to close.

ABC15 has reached out to ADHS and the Governor's Office for comment.