Mississauga gym refuses to be shut down as anti-mask supporters gather outside
HUF Gym, the independent Mississauga fitness centre that reopened for business earlier this week in the face of the provincial shutdown, is now facing enforcement action from city officials as lockdown opponents continue to gather on site.
The long-running family-owned boxing gym announced that it was officially opening its doors to members on Tuesday, and drew a mix of support and ire from a public that is at once sympathetic to struggling businesses who've been closed for the majority of the last year and concerned with rising COVID-19 infection rates.
While other centres in the region have been forcibly closed for more than 26 weeks, Huf was permitted to remain open in some earlier iterations of lockdown due to its status as a Provincial Sports Organization.
Like other businesses that have balked at current restrictions, it has become a location for a small group of sign-bearing supporters, who were seen hugging and taking photos with Peel Regional Police when they arrived on scene to investigate the business.
EXCLUSIVE Uniformed Peel Police sergeant is all hugs with supporters of HUF gym before and after one of their group members pursued me. No masks. He offers me a hug, too. I decline. City ordered gym closed; they refuse. @PeelPolice @globalnews #Mississauga pic.twitter.com/B5qqvQasRg— 𝚂𝚎á𝚗 𝙾’𝚂𝚑𝚎𝚊 (@ConsumerSOS) April 16, 2021
Mayor Bonnie Crombie has now said that she will be ensuring that the gym's proprietors are issued the maximum fine possible for contravening orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA), which are $100,000 and up to one year in jail for an individual, $500,000 and up to one year for a business owner, and $10,000,000 for a corporation.
"I don’t have a lot of tolerance for this, they know the rules, everybody knows the rules," she said at a press conference on Thursday.
"We don't make exceptions because they have their own interpretation of the rules or how they should be. The rules are very firm and they apply to everyone."
Party at the gym: overnight, Huf Gym posts this YouTube video showing unmasked patrons and owners inside the gym, including Teresa Heron and Jonathan (Jay) Heron. Full video here:: https://t.co/MqCMwkip1y @citymississauga pic.twitter.com/mj55NnST2C— 𝚂𝚎á𝚗 𝙾’𝚂𝚑𝚎𝚊 (@ConsumerSOS) April 16, 2021
Municipal bylaw officers have been investigating, but have been denied entry by staff who slept overnight in the facility to ensure the locks would not be changed as they were at Adamson BBQ when that establishment violated the ROA by opening for a number of days back in the fall.
Enforcement officials added at the same presser that they will now be pursing part-3 obstruction charges under the ROA, and that the gym is an outlier as far as businesses in the city are concerned, with most others cooperating with mandated closures.
Nice to see a small business fighting back. They should stay open, everyone can make their own decisions 🥊❤️#staystrong— Nikki (@ncrosato) April 14, 2021
Multiple restaurants elsewhere in Ontario, though, have defied measures to serve maskless patrons indoors and out in recent days — and lost their liquor licenses in the process — in protest of the current shutdown and what they see as the ongoing targeting of small businesses, where transmission risks have proven to be low.
A seeming eternity in full lockdown has led to understandable mass frustration with those not heeding the rules — with most under the impression that if we all did, case numbers may go down again — as well as the provincial government's handling of the health crisis.
HUF co-owner Teresa Heron told blogTO on Wednesday that she's concerned for the mental and physical health of people during this dark and lengthy lockdown.
"Our community needs help, people need help... Nobody is saying how mental health has been affected. People need a release, they need to exercise. Boxing is a great way to combat stress, to release anxiety, to feel better, it's all that."
The gym continues to employ the health and safety protocols it was operating under previously during the pandemic, including screening patrons and ramping up sanitization.
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