CONCORD, N.C. — The Concord Police Department charged a Concord gym Wednesday for violating Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order.
Concord Police Chief Gary Gacek personally served Sportscenter Fitness and Athletic Club owner Bruce Burchfield with a criminal summons, marking his second visit of the day. Wednesday morning, he issued the gym its third verbal warning along with a cease and desist letter.
“The owner made it clear to me they intend to remain open,” Chief Gacek said to Channel 9.
The Sportscenter opened its doors Monday at 5 a.m. openly defying Cooper’s executive order that requires fitness centers to remain closed during phase two of the state’s reopening plan. Gacek said officers have gone to the gym every day since to educate the owners by providing a hard copy of the executive order and hoping for voluntary compliance. He said charging the owners was the last resort.
“They really left us no wiggle room, no option other than turning a blind eye and that's not a viable option,” Gacek explained. “This is something we are obligated to do, enforce the law, whether you agree with the executive order or the politics involved, it's the law and we are obligated to enforce that law.”
Just because the gym owners have been charged, doesn’t mean they’ll be prosecuted. Gacek, Cabarrus County Sheriff Van Shaw and Concord City Manager Lloyd Payne all independently told Channel 9 that District Attorney Roxann Vaneekhoven has voiced concerns she has about the executive order. The decision on how to move forward is now in her hands.
In an email to Channel 9’s Susanna Black, Vaneekhoven said if a charge was made, “the District Attorney’s Office will handle this case as prescribed by our statutory duty.” Some members have felt so strongly about the gym’s decision to reopen illegally that they’ve canceled their memberships. Kathleen Hannon did.
“I could not be complicit -- absolutely could not,” Hannon said. “We don't all individually get to decide which laws we're going to follow. I did plead with them to say please don't do this. It's difficult but it's people’s lives at stake, what are we doing if we aren't protecting that?”
Another current member asked Channel 9 not to use her name, but said she is a health care worker and feels the Sportscenter is sending the wrong message.
“Like, that they’re above the law. I just don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t think it’s safe for the community. I don’t think it’s safe for the families that go there. I don’t think it’s safe. I would like to see them comply like other business that have had to comply. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Gacek said he recognizes and is thankful for the business owners who are complying with the order.
“The advice I would give for them is to not follow the business model the Sportscenter is playing out. It’s just not a good example to follow,’” Gacek said.
Channel 9 reached out to the Sportscenter for comment on its decision but has not heard back.
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