The owner of Club Fitness of Vermont, a Rutland gym, and Attorney General T.J. Dononvan settled a case that began in May when the gym’s owner, Sean Manovill, opened the business to the public despite an order from Gov. Phil Scott closing gyms because of the pandemic.

In May, gyms were required by an executive order from Scott’s office be to be closed. A number of changes had been made at the time, including sending students home to be taught remotely because Vermont was in a state of emergency and making efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

On Thursday, more than 140 new cases of COVID were identified, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

Gyms are allowed to be open with restrictions, including limits to the number of people allowed inside at one time and restrictions on use of common areas like locker rooms.

Under the settlement, Manovill has agreed to comply with the governor’s executive order. Also, he agreed to make a $1,000 payment to the Vermont Foodbank’s Rutland regional distribution center.

Contacted by text on Friday to ask whether he would agree to an interview or offer a comment, Manovill responded, “Pray for Vermont.”

In May, Manovill said he thought the gym was an essential business because of the importance of physical fitness at a time of what he called a “mental health crisis.” He said he had gotten hundreds of supportive calls, emails and texts since people learned he was opening Club Fitness again.

In a statement announcing the settlement, Donovan said he appreciated that most Vermonters had complied with state directions during the pandemic.

“These are tough times for all Vermonters, including Vermont’s small businesses. But even in these tough times, we all have to do our part,” he said.

In May the attorney general’s office filed a civil enforcement complaint alleging violations of Vermont’s emergency management statutes and Scott’s executive order. A judge granted the attorney general’s motion for a temporary restraining order, closing the gym.

Manovill filed a countersuit against the state last year alleging that the executive order was unconstitutional but a judge dismissed the countersuit in September.

Charity Clark, chief of staff at the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, said by email Friday that the primary concern in Donovan’s office was “public safety and making sure Vermonters and Vermont businesses follow the governor’s executive order

Asked about the $1,000 contribution required by the settlement, Clark added that Donovan’s goal was to “recognize that food insecurity has spiked due to the pandemic.”

“This payment is a way to assist those in need in the Rutland community,” she said.


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