West Kelowna  

'We will not be bullied': Defiant West Kelowna gym now operating without business licence after city pulls renewal

'We will not be bullied'

Iron Energy Fitness Centre in West Kelowna is now operating without a business license after the city pulled its renewal over the gym's fight against closure orders.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order on Dec. 22, forcing the closure of gyms and fitness facilities until Jan. 18, amid a surge in Omicron COVID-19 cases in B.C.

"We are still open and we are standing strong," Iron Energy Fitness co-owner Brian Mark said Wednesday.

"We understand COVID is real and people have gotten sick. We have actually gotten sick, so that is why as owners we got vaccinated, asked people to wear masks, do social distancing. We did everything that they asked of us. When the new restrictions came out and they told us that we were going to have to close our gym — we decided that it wasn't right."

Mark says his the gym has 1,350 members.

"They count on us for their mental health. We have got members who have come up to us while we have been open now and thanked us because they are sober now because they are in our gym," he said.

At a news conference Tuesday, Dr. Henry was asked for evidence related to the transmission of COVID-19 in gyms.

“I can't tell you every single case that's been linked to a gym, but we can tell you that we've seen this as a pattern, that these are environments that are higher risk.”

While gyms as a whole have done nothing wrong, Henry said "reputable" gyms understand "that they're not going to put their staff and clients at risk when we're seeing the amount of transmission that we're seeing right now."

When asked about Dr. Henry's comments, gym co-owner Cole DaSilva pointed to other sectors that have been allowed to continue to operate.

"There are certain things out there that are allowed to stay open if they provide certain sports services to sports teams. You also have gyms in Maple Ridge near Vancouver who are allowed to stay open for people between the ages of 13 and 17-years-old. You can also do boxing."

"I get what they are trying to say here. The Omicron variant is transmissible, but if that is the case then multiple other locations would be closed down. There are pictures all over the internet of casinos completely packed of individuals shoulder to shoulder, but nobody is speaking about that," DaSilva said.

Mark says he wants to see specific data involving the spread of COVID in gyms.

"She said they have seeing a pattern. Show us the pattern. If that is the evidence that you are going to use to close down our facilities and negatively the health of 1,350 members and take away my livelihood as a Canadian citizen, then show me the data."

Mark says the City of West Kelowna informed them yesterday it would not be renewing their license to operate over non-compliance with the public health order. The municipality confirmed that is the case in a statement to Castanet.

“We have not issued the 2022 business licence renewal for Iron Energy Fitness Centre, 104 – 2476 Westlake Road, at this time, as the business is operating in contravention of a Public Health Order. The City will review this decision after further consultation with Interior Health," the city's statement said.

"We are still open today and our gym is popping," Mark said.

Interior Health has yet to take any further action, but if they do, Mark says he is ready.

"We will cut the locks off and we will open our gym. We will open our gym as a charity donation if we need to. We are staying open. We are taking a stand. We will not be bullied into compliance," Mark added.

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