Digital Exclusive: Clarks Summit gym owner defies mandate, remains open

Digital Exclusive

CLARKS SUMMIT, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — “We’ve not tried to defy the Governor, we’ve not tried to do that. That’s not been our intent. We’ve tried to go along, we know that COVID is a serious thing. You look around, everyone is in facemasks, we’re sanitizing everything all day. We’re doing everything they told us to do, they still chose to shut us down,” Jim Brown, owner of Brown’s Gym, said.

When Governor Wolf ordered gyms to close again this year, Brown did just that. Brown’s Gym in Clarks Summit was closed until Monday. But when the Brown family spoke with their landlord and learned he couldn’t help them with their rent, they decided to reopen the gym the very next day.

“We’re never going to recoup the money we lost. I mean I lost everything from the last 28 years,” Brown said.

Brown says his business has been struggling since the first closure earlier this year and has done everything he could to try to keep it afloat, including using up his retirement savings and taking out a loan that will take 30 years to pay off.

“There’s nothing like borrowing $200,000 and not buying anything. You didn’t get anything for it. All you did is use it to pay bills that you should have been paid for by income from the business,” Brown said.

Brown tells Eyewitness News his insurance policy included business interruption, and should have covered the closings.

“If you had a fire in your place and it took you two months to rebuild it, well you bought insurance that was at the value at what our gross incomes were for the month and it’s required to pay for our bills while we were closed. So it was to represent that. But there was also stuff in there to protect us if we got closed by government, you know if they came in and shut us down or whatever. And they turned us down,” Brown said.

He says he is now involved in a class action lawsuit against the insurance company by a local law office. Brown says there has been backlash about re-opening his gym.

“If they think I deserve to go bankrupt because I opened back up to try and make one last chance to try and save myself there’s nothing I can do about that. That just makes bad people,” Brown said.

Brown says he fears being cited.

“We’re still probably going to get cited still. Frankly nothing I can do about it. The chance of failure if I didn’t open was 100 percent. If I open, my chance of failure is much less,” Brown said.

As for paying those citations, he says they can’t take money from him that he doesn’t have. He continues to stay open because he owes his customers, who he calls friends.

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