Moline gym owner defies Gov. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan

Published: May. 18, 2020 at 11:15 PM CDT
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As an

requiring businesses to follow the Restore Illinois plan is put into place, one Moline gym owner is defying it. TV6 spoke with the owner about why he’s staying open and the potential legal repercussions.

“Governor Pritzker you gave an order and this is my act of civil disobedience,” Chris Ninotta, owner of Omni Strength said.

The windows of the Omni Strength gym in Moline are covered with painted messages, like “Working out is essential” and “We are open for business”. In the beginning, he said he was willing to follow guidelines and changed his class sizes.

“I did the Zoom classes for a while. Rented out all my equipment and, you know, you reach a point where enough is enough and somebody's got to say something,” Ninotta said. “I can't do it any longer. I'm a single father and that's where my loyalty lies and there's no man or government on earth that's gonna tell me I gotta, you know, do this."

During a press conference Monday, Governor Pritzker said that “communication and education should be our first tools to encourage compliance. For the vast majority of residences and businesses, that’s been very effective.”

However, the frustration for Ninotta continued with the Iowa border sitting less than one mile away from the gym.

"I took the situation serious when it started, as we should. It's a serious situation, but with what the governor is doing right now, it seems like everybody is suffering because of Chicago,” Ninotta said. "The control..needs to be given to either the cities or the counties to judge accordingly,” he said.

During the press conference, Governor Pritzker also addressed business owners who defy the plan. "Per the Illinois Department of Public Health Act, when a business violates an IDPH rule and puts public health at risk, the business has committed a class A misdemeanor. That's the existing law today,” he said. "There are people who are endangering people in their own communities and we wanted people to give, again, local officials, local law enforcement, the ability to do what they need to do."

For Ninotta that could mean legal repercussions. Under Illinois law, a class A misdemeanor can carry a fine of $75 to $2,500. Less than a year of jail is also a possibility.

"This additional enforcement tool, this citation, causes less harm to a business than a total shutdown or a loss of a license, but gives local governments and law enforcement the ability to do their job,” Pritzker said.

Even with the risk of repercussions, Ninotta said he’s not too worried about it.

"Fine me. Imprison me. Ruin this single father's life. Do it, you know, do that. If that's what's going to be what he thinks is just,” he said.