Watch the moment a Preston gym owner gets raided by police for the 11th time for refusing to close for lockdown
A gym in Preston has been raided by police for an 11th time today, as its owner refuses to close for lockdown.
Steven Todd, owner of Reps Gym in Roman Way Industrial Estate, off Longridge Road, was visited by officers at around 12.30pm this afternoon.
At the time of the police visit, the Post was at the gym speaking with Steven, asking him why he was refusing to close his business during lockdown.
Gyms have been forced to remain closed in England since November 5 as part of the Government’s efforts to reduce transmission of Covid-19.
Steven had been sharing his concerns about the impact he says lockdown has had on mental health. He said his gym has become “a sanctuary” for some of his customers who are struggling with depression and isolation.
As our cameras rolled, two police vehicles pulled up outside.
“Oh, here we go again,” sighed Steven, as he braced himself for another visit – and another fine - from the city’s police officers.
Four officers entered the gym and began quizzing Steven about his non-compliance with coronavirus restrictions.
Officers are now familiar with the gym owner, who has been visited on 11 occasions and issued with thousands of pounds worth of fines, since lockdown began.
Steven was asked why he was still open despite repeated orders to close.
He said: "We’ve been through this before lads. I am happy for you to keep visiting and I understand you are just doing your job.
“You lot do a cracking job, but I know the law”, he said, putting his case to the officers.
He added: “My facilities are open, free of charge, for the members with mental health issues.
"So, I will be staying open", he politely told officers, adding, "I'm sure I’ll be seeing you again soon."
Steven says he disputes the legality of coronavirus legislation and has refused to pay the thousands of pounds in fines that he has accumulated over recent weeks.
His polite stand-off with officers lasted around 20 minutes before he was left to continue running his business – and to deal with another £1,000 fine.
The officers were unable to access the gym itself without a warrant, where a number of members had been working out whilst respecting social-distancing guidelines.
After officers left Steven’s gym, it returned to “business as usual”.
Afterwards, he said: "I’d like to put it on the record that I'm doing this for the wellbeing of all the lads and ladies that come here every day for the benefit of their mental health. It's that important.
"If I close and something happens to one of my customers, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I wouldn't want that on my conscience. They need this place open. It's essential for the good of their mental health.
"I appreciate that there is a pandemic and people are dying from the virus. I don't doubt that for a second. But our gym is massive and there's lots of space to be responsible and social distance. People are more at risk shopping in a supermarket or sitting on a bus."
Steven said he has not received any business support grants from the Government because he would have to shut his gym down.
"I could go onto the Government website now and have £6,000 in my bank account tomorrow, " he says.
"I could sit at home and not lift a finger. But it's not about the money. People need this place.
“Before all this happened, society was obsessed with people’s mental health and wellbeing. Everyone was encouraged to share their worries and seek help if they couldn’t cope.
“I can go in that gym and I know lads who’ve lost friends. Young lads that have committed suicide through this. The mental health crisis in this country has gone off the Richter scale these last 12 months.
“Well, this is exactly why we're open. It’s a release for so many people, a sanctuary and you if you take that away, some people will find it very, very difficult to cope.”
What did Lancashire Police and Preston City Council say about Reps Gym remaining open?
We asked officers what the next stage of enforcement would be, and if they would continue to seek to bring Mr Todd in line with lockdown restrictions.
On January 15, Steven was handed a prohibition notice during a visit from police and Environmental Health Officers from Preston City Council.
Police said enforcement action is the responsibility of Preston City Council and declined to comment further.
We asked the city council what their next course of action would be and how they intended to make Steven comply with the current restrictions. The Council declined to comment directly on Reps Gym, but did issue the following comment.
Councillor Peter Moss, deputy leader, said: "I understand the restrictions on businesses caused by coronavirus are difficult and am grateful to the majority who are following the rules that are there to keep people safe.
"However, there are a small number of businesses who continue to break these rules and put the health and safety of their staff and customers at risk by remaining open.
"We are aware of false information circulating on social media which is influencing a small number of businesses. Our teams are working closely with businesses to provide accurate advice and information on operating safely or claiming support if they are unable to operate under current government restrictions.
"While the Council will always seek to provide information and advice initially, businesses that continue to disregard this and put the safety of others at risk will face formal regulatory action leading in more serious cases to prosecution.”
"We are working closely with the police in this respect and encourage members of the public who have information about businesses breaking restrictions to share this with us."
DISCLAIMER: The Post does not encourage anyone or any business to breach coronavirus restrictions. We fully support Lancashire Police and the local authorities' efforts to ensure coronavirus guidance and regulations are adhered to at all times.
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