PLAINS TWP. — Larry Danko defied a state order by reopening his fitness center and the township police chief said that action will result in citations.
After being shut down since mid-March, Danko opened Danko’s All American Fitness on North River Street at 5 a.m. Tuesday even though Luzerne County remains in the red phase.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Luzerne County will enter the yellow phase on Friday but gyms are not permitted to open until the green phase and it’s unclear when that will be.
Danko said it was important for him to reopen his fitness center so his employees are able to work, his members can exercise and he can keep his business open.
“This is essential for a lot of people. I’ve been doing this 30 years of my life. I only know this. It’s a community situation and these people are happy they’re here,” Danko said. “We’re not being disrespectful but we have to open.”
Plains Twp. Police Chief Dale Binker said Danko will be cited every day he opens before the green phase. Magisterial District Judge Joseph Spagnuolo will determine the amount of the fines, he said.
Binker said Danko was his former football coach in junior high school and high school and the situation is unfortunate.
“He (Danko) is a very nice guy and I understand both sides. I respect Mr. Danko and he has been part of the Plains Twp. community for a long time,” Binker said. “The law is the law. Unfortunately, with this order from the governor, we’re going to have to cite him.”
As of Tuesday morning, Danko said he had not yet received any citations.
“Our members are ecstatic that we are open,” Danko said. “People who can’t work out and are not even members are coming to work out. You can see all the support I’m getting.”
Wilkes-Barre resident Nate Mahalak, 24, a member of Danko’s All American Fitness for 10 years, was one of a number of customers who came to the gym to work out Tuesday.
“It has been a long wait,” Mahalak said. “As long as we practice social distancing and wipe down the machines, we should be OK.”
Dallas resident Logan Baseski, 21, also came to Danko’s to work out and he’s happty to resume the healthy lifestyle.
“We’re excited to get back into the gym,” Baseski said.
Danko’s wife Jennifer Danko took people’s temperatures as they entered the facility.
“We have had so many people reach out to us and say they need to come back into the facility and they want to work out,” she said. “Obviously, every business is essential to somebody. This is a family here. It’s essential to people. It’s such a big part of their mental, physical and emotional health.”
Hand sanitizer was available at the door. Signs were put up to direct people to different rooms and keep the flow moving.
Danko said he asked people to wipe down machines but he also pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that coronavirus does not spread easily on surfaces.
He said people who come to his fitness center can wear masks if they choose if they aren’t doing difficult workouts but he isn’t requiring or recommending it.
Danko plans to keep his Plains Twp. fitness center open 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m to 5 p.m.
He plans to open another gym on the Memorial Highway in Dallas, Danko’s Back Mountain on Monday.
His fitness centers have been offering virtual classes and Danko said he plans to offer in-person classes spreading people out at a future date not yet determined and at a reduced schedule.
Another gym, 10X Fitness in Taylor, also defied the governor’s shutdown order and opened earlier this month. Co-owner Daniel Cronauer closed it again, however, after police cited him four times in two days.
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