Virginia gym owner files suit to halt Gov. Northam’s executive order closing nonessential businesses

(Photo: Courtesy MGN Image)

(Photo: Courtesy MGN Image)

CULPEPER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia small business owner represented by two Republican state senators has filed a civil suit seeking an injunction to block Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order closing nonessential businesses until May 8.

Merrill C. “Sandy” Hall, the owner of several Gold’s Gym facilities in Virginia, filed the suit Tuesday in Culpeper County Circuit Court. Plaintiffs in the suit include the Gold’s Gym in Midlothian and Roanoke.

Hall is challenging the governor’s authority to enforce Executive Order 53, which directed all nonessential businesses to close in response to the coronavirus.

“As presently applied and enforced, EO 53 has irreparably injured Petitioners’ [Hall] business, and is currently smothering their final breath,” the suit claims. “Indeed, if these businesses cannot re-open before May 8, 2020, the executive order will force their permanent closure and eliminate the many jobs they sustain.”

READ: Full Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief

A release from Hall’s legal team, made up of Sen. William M. “Bill” Stanley (R-Franklin) and Sen. Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover), said the suit argues that a permanent injunction should be granted “based upon certain legal grounds.”

The legal grounds provided by Hall’s attorneys in the release include:

  • That the Governor’s Executive Order 53, and its subsequent amendments, by the specific and plain language of the orders, do not apply to private, member-only health clubs regulated under the “Virginia Health Club Act,” and that the operation of their businesses are “essential” to the health and well-being of Virginians in battling the COVID-19 virus;
  • That the Governor exceeded his statutory and legal authority when he issued Executive Order 53, invoking powers and authority that he did not actually possess; and
  • That the Governor lacked the constitutional and statutory authority to impose a criminal penalty of a Class One Misdemeanor (punishable by a maximum jail term of 12 months, and a $2500.00 fine), for any “violation” by a business owner of Executive Order 53, and therefore is prohibited from incarcerating small business owners for attempting to operate their business.

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