Town shuts off water, electricity to Oxford gym defying shutdown

OXFORD, Mass. — The owner of an Oxford gym now says the town has shut off the water and electricity to his building in an effort to enforce a shutdown order.

Earlier this week, a judge in Worcester Superior Court affirmed a ruling from early June that ordered the gym to close. That gym, owned by Dave Blondin, has been open in defiance of the state’s orders that all non-essential businesses remain closed until their specified phase in Massachusetts’ reopening plan.

Blondin told Boston 25 News the town tried to shut off the water on Wednesday but didn’t because there were people inside so they came back sometime overnight. He says the water and power is also off at his other business, which sells supplements and has been deemed essential.

He says despite it, he will still allow members to access the gym.

Gyms are currently set to reopen in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, but Prime Fitness & Nutrition in Oxford has already opened up well in advance of most of Massachusetts’ reopening phases.

In response, the Town of Oxford originally fined Blondin $300 for each day that his gym remained open.

On Tuesday, a judge ruled that Blondin has to pay a $1,000 fine for each day he has continued to remain open after a court order was issued on June 5, 2020, ordering him to close his gym. That means the business owner has racked up more than $10,000 in fines in just the last 11 days alone. Those fines will continue daily until Prime Fitness & Nutrition is closed.

Blondin told Boston 25 News he has been appealing the fines, and a GoFundMe page has raised more than $12,000 to help him pay for the fines, should he lose his appeals

“When it comes down to it, it’s not about money,” said Blondin. “If it comes down to I have to pay fines and I’m paying for my clients’ mental health and the livelihood of my business, then so be it, it’s a fee that I have to pay, it’s a cost of business.”

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Tuesday’s order was issued after the plaintiff - the Town of Oxford - contended that Blondin was still not complying with the court’s previous order to close issued on June 5. The latest order also said that Blondin must cover the town’s attorney fees and their other costs associated with enforcing the June 5 order.

Judge Susan Sullivan also wrote that, if Blondin continues to defy the court order, he could receive further punishment, including additional fines and potential jail time. According to the judge’s ruling, the Town of Oxford now has the power to shut down the gym using any reasonable measures necessary, such as changing the locks or boarding up the doors.

“I’ll walk away peacefully if they [Oxford town leaders] do [come to shut down the gym], but I can’t say for what my members or other people are going to do when that happens,” said Blondin, adding that the town has not reached out to him since the judge’s decision came down.

“You have all these other states where there’s massive riots and with everything going on, and the worse thing they’re trying to do is shut down a gym that people are trying to be healthy with,” he said. “It’s worth it 100%, whatever I have to do to protect my business. It’s surprising to me that other business owners don’t feel the same.”

Blondin said none of his gym members have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the gym reopened last month.

“Not one person has been sick,” he said. “Everybody is feeling mentally better, honestly all my clients are in a much better place.”

The Town of Oxford has hired counsel and gave the following statement to Boston 25 News:

The Town is currently reviewing its options with respect to enforcement of [Tuesday’s] court order. The Town does intend to take action as, in contrast to Mr. Blondin who has chosen to flout the law, the Town respects the actions of the court and shall act accordingly. The Town will take appropriate actions utilizing the options offered by the court in a manner that avoids unnecessary confrontation, while serving to protect the overall interests of public health and safety.

—  Town of Oxford

“This business means to much to me. Let [the town] come to me and see what happens; if they’re just going to talk and say they’re going to do it then I’ll still stand my ground. But, if they want to move forward then I think there will be a lot of backlash,” Blondin said, referring to a potential negative response from some of his customers.

“They will break things down, they will protest.”

Blondin added that the gym is his livelihood and that he will willingly pay the price for his decision.

“Put me in jail. If that’s going to be my punishment, so be it,” he said.

He says the sprinklers are still working for safety purposes.

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