Last Friday, two customers of Goetz Physical Culture Center in Glen Rose were issued Class C misdemeanor tickets — the equivalent of a traffic violation — after visiting the facility under Gov. Greg Abbott’s current shutdown of what the state categorizes as non-essential businesses.
Mark Goetz, co-owner of the gym along with his wife, Radonna, told the Glen Rose Reporter Monday afternoon that he would have fully understood the reasoning if he had been given a citation himself, rather than his customers.
“There was no reason not to cite the owner,” said Mark Goetz, whose 9,000-square-foot facility is on Jefferson Avenue. “I’m not necessarily taking a stand, just objecting to the restrictions.”
Goetz indicated he wasn’t attempting to challenge the local authorities, and said that previously they have had a good relationship with city officials.
“In a letter to the city, I asked them to please take action against me (and not customers). It appears that was misunderstood as a challenge — which it was not,” Goetz said. “Chief Martin said he could not charge me.”
Glen Rose Mayor Pam Miller posted a message online about what led to the citations, stating in part, “In recent weeks, the owner of the gym sent letters to City Administrator (Michael) Leamons, members of the City Council, and myself, advertising his intention of defying Governor Abbott’s order by reopening for business on Friday, May 1st. He was asked not to do so, but did anyway.
“After consulting with City Attorney (Brady) Pendleton, Governor Abbott’s staff, and the Attorney General’s Office, the administration determined it was on solid ground and asked Police Chief Martin to take action. It was the opinion of City staff that to make a bold statement, the gym owner wanted to be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, arrested, and jailed for his defiance of the Governor’s orders.”
Mark and Radonna Goetz had closed their gym previously, after Gov. Abbott’s initial executive order shutting down businesses in the effort to restrict spread of the COVID-19 virus. But their take on the restrictions changed when they learned that Gov. Abbott’s new Phase 1 allowed restaurants and some other businesses to open up again, although with restrictions, last Friday.
Goetz said his primary objections were with the governor’s restrictions remaining in place for low-risk counties such as Somervell, while other businesses and activities have been opened up across the state. Goetz noted that Somervell County still has had no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 among its residents.
“That was the deal-breaker,” Goetz said of the new rules that went into place Friday. “You have the choice (to enter the gym or not). That’s your decision.”
Glen Rose Police Chief Buck Martin said that after the city received complaints about the gym being open for business, he issued the tickets and was simply doing his job.
“We’re not writing a law, we’re just trying to enforce it,” Martin told the newspaper.
Martin said that if he finds that other businesses such as hair salons are in violation of the executive order to stay closed until further notice, “I wouldn’t do it any differently. The executive order says ‘people shall avoid going into’ gyms.”
Martin said that anyone ticketed with a Class C misdemeanor has 10 days to contact the municipal clerk’s office at City Hall.
Gov. Abbott’s previous stay at home order was allowed to expire on April 30, but the current order reopening some businesses went in place as of 12:01 a.m. Friday. The state’s online posts says that “under Section 418.173, failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.”
In April, some cities in Texas reportedly issued citations to people who were deemed in violation of shelter-in-place orders, but it is unclear whether Glen Rose is the first city in Texas where customers of a business were given Class C misdemeanor tickets.
An online report from KTXS-TV in Abilene last month states that the owner of a jiu-jitsu training studio in that city was given a citation on April 15, for alleged violation of Gov. Abbott’s shelter-in-place executive order that was in force at that time.
That article noted, “Three customers were also cited. But (Abilene Police Chief Stan) Standridge said those will be dismissed since the customers had not been previously warned.”
The owner of a hair salon in Dallas made news more than a week ago when she re-opened her business — before Gov. Abbott announced Phase 1 of his recent plan to open up restaurants and some other businesses.