NJ Gym Owner Who Defied COVID-19 Lockdown Running For Congress
Ian Smith, owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.
Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The owner of a New Jersey gym who defied Governor Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 lockdown orders is mounting a run for Congress.

Ian Smith, the co-owner of the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, announced via Twitter that his first campaign event would take place Thursday evening. Smith is running in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, attempting to unseat incumbent Democrat Andy Kim, who was first elected to Congress in 2018.

Smith originally announced his intention to run for Congress on Sunday. “I am truly excited to have the possibility to serve the people of NJ with a platform focused on liberty, small government, and America First policies,” Smith wrote on Twitter.

“People, not politicians. For too long, good people have not gotten involved in politics — whether that is because the establishment won’t open the door for them or they don’t want to participate in the foul world of politics. More than anything, this needs to change. And I will be a part of that change,” Smith said in an Instagram post accompanying the announcement. “Our public officials have forgotten who they work for. Working in politics is about SERVICE, not about profit. It’s not a career, it’s a duty. Together we are going to change the culture of politics. More ordinary citizens. Less career politicians. It starts in 2022.”


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A post shared by Ian Smith (@iansmithfitness)

Smith and co-owner Frank Trumbetti made national headlines in May 2020 for refusing to close Atilis after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a statewide shutdown order on “non-essential” businesses. Smith and Trumbetti were both arrested in July for defying the order and received dozens of municipal citations for keeping the gym in operation. The gym was also subjected to daily fines, and the state of New Jersey seized $173,000 raised by the gym for its legal defense. Atilis also had its business license revoked by the Borough Council of Bellmawr.

Last week, Smith and Trumbetti were sentenced to one year of probation for contempt of court, after the two physically removed the doors of the gym to prevent police from locking them out. “We got one year probation for the crime of taking our doors off to prevent government goons from locking us out of our gym,” Smith tweeted shortly after the sentencing hearing.

Smith thanked supporters in an accompanying post on Instagram. “This fiasco has gone on for almost 2 years and not a moment has gone by where we needed help or support and it was not there,” Smith wrote. “The fact that not only is it present but it continues to grow with each day that passes is one of our greatest blessings. We would not be able to do this if we did not have the support that we have.”

“We were sentenced to a one year term of probation with minimal fines. This is not the outcome we wanted. We are going to have to take this day by day. We do not trust the state and we do not trust Governor Murphy to act in the best interest of the public and we are fully aware from Governor Murphy’s past actions that he has a personal issue with us and [Atilis]. Nonetheless, we return back to work and we return back to fighting the cases that matter.”


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A post shared by Ian Smith (@iansmithfitness)

According to a legal update posted on the gym’s website, Smith and Trumbetti are currently in the appeals process against the state over the lockdown order, and against the Borough of Bellmawr for taking away their business license. Litigation against the borough is also pending. Despite having their license revoked, Smith and Trumbetti have kept Atilis free and open to the public, relying on donations from supporters and merchandise sales. According to Atilis Gym, as of January 21, the gym had been visited over 340,000 times with no COVID-19 outbreaks.

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