As Arlington gym closes, a Snohomish barber continues to cut

PA Fitness closed after the state attorney general filed a lawsuit. “We would lose,” a co-owner conceded.

OLYMPIA — Two Snohomish County businesses that defied the governor’s stay-home order are now facing legal battles with the state Attorney General’s Office.

An Arlington gym that reopened earlier this month closed Tuesday night after Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in Snohomish Superior Court, one of the business’ co-owners said.

And now Snohomish barber Bob Martin, who’s been illegally cutting hair all month, could face a similar fate. Ferguson’s office sent him a letter saying he has 48 hours to close up shop or he’ll face legal action.

“I am not going to close,” Martin told The Daily Herald on Tuesday. “I don’t think they’d dare try that, but they can if they want to.”

After shuttering in March, PA Fitness in Arlington welcomed customers back on May 11 with some social-distancing guidelines. Shortly after, Ferguson sent the gym a cease-and-desist order. On Monday, Ferguson sued co-owner Michael Jellison in Snohomish County Superior Court, which led Jellison to close the business.

Jellison had a response similar to Martin’s earlier this week. Then he talked to his lawyer.

“After words from our attorney, he stated that it would cost not only me, but my partners as well, millions of dollars to fight and we would lose,” he wrote on the gym’s Facebook page.

Jellison could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Martin declined an interview Wednesday because he was cutting hair.

Ferguson’s lawsuit alleges that by remaining open, the gym was endangering public health and engaging in unfair business practices because competitors followed the state’s rules. That violates the state Consumer Protection Act, the attorney general said.

Gym ownership said it plans to sue the state Thursday to block it from enforcing the governor’s stay-home order.

An online fundraiser to pay for the gym’s legal battles had raised more than $5,000 as of Wednesday.

The gym’s Facebook page was also calling for customers to call Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert to complain about the stay-home order. Ownership may sue the city, as well, according to the page.

“Can we recall a mayor?” the Facebook page said.

Arlington city administrator Paul Ellis said the city’s only involvement in the dispute was a letter sent to PA Fitness, warning management of possible legal consequences of defying the governor’s order, he said.

The city doesn’t “get to pick and choose” which laws it enforces, Ellis said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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