Va. Supreme Court refuses to hear Gold’s Gym appeal
Owner of 9 franchises in state sought to reopen gyms.
The Supreme Court of Virginia won’t hear an appeal in a lawsuit filed against the governor by the owner of nine Gold’s Gym franchises in Virginia.
Merrill C. “Sandy” Hall filed suit last month in Culpeper County Circuit Court, seeking to reopen his gyms, which were closed by executive order in March to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In a filing Tuesday, the state’s high court denied Hall’s petition to review the case.
The lower court ruled last month against Hall’s request for a temporary injunction against Executive Order 53, which closed all gyms and fitness centers, as well as other “nonessential” businesses. Hall then appealed to the state Supreme Court on May 4. The Culpeper-based business owner’s gyms are in Northern Virginia, Fredericksburg, Roanoke and the Richmond area, typically employing 1,100 people.
According to the filing by Supreme Court of Virginia Deputy Clerk Douglas B. Robelen, “the denial of injunctive relief is reviewed solely for an abuse of discretion. Under the circumstances, we are unable to conclude that the circuit court abused its discretion.”
The case pitted Attorney Gen. Mark Herring, representing Gov. Ralph Northam, against two Republican state senators, Bill Stanley and Ryan McDougle, representing Hall.
“I’m really pleased we were again able to successfully defend Gov. Northam’s executive orders that have proven to be effective in keeping our communities safe, keeping Virginians healthy, and preventing further spread of COVID-19,” Herring said in a statement. “During these difficult and unprecedented times, we must continue to all work together to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe and healthy.”
Hall said he was concerned about being able to hold on to his franchises, especially in Northern Virginia, where Phase One of the governor’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan has been delayed until May 29.
Currently, even in localities that have started to lift restrictions on businesses, members are not allowed to come inside gyms and fitness centers. Hall said it wasn’t feasible for his franchises to hold outdoor classes, which is allowed in Phase One, and he didn’t expect to reopen any of his gyms before the state enters Phase Two, approximately two or three weeks from now.
Hall said that before filing suit, he and his partners sent a brief to the governor’s office outlining safety measures they planned to take if allowed to remain open.
“I just think it’s important for people to know that this litigation is not political,” Hall said last week. “I don’t agree with this governor. I think everyone should have a fair chance to meet the regulations.”
Hall did not immediately return a message requesting comment Tuesday afternoon.