£10k Covid lockdown fine dropped for gym owner in Cambridgeshire
- Credit: PA
A Cambridgeshire gym owner facing a £10,000 fine for breaching Covid lockdown regulations in 2020 has seen the case against him dropped.
Alex Lowndes, owner of Gainz Fitness and Strength in St Neots and Bedford, refused to close his gym in November 2020 because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Under regulations at the time, the second national lockdown in England, sports venues could only open in limited circumstances, such as for the training of elite athletes.
Police raided the gym on November 5 2020 and Mr Lowndes was charged with a breach of lockdown regulations, which he denied.
He failed to pay the fixed penalty notice and was due to stand trial last March.
Bedford Borough Council's case has since collapsed but the authority said it had acted in the “public interest”.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Lowndes claimed the council case was “flimsy” and “inept”, and that it was also “ludicrous” to continue to prosecute people for exercising after details of the “partygate” gatherings in Westminster emerged.
“They [the council] should have looked at it even six months in and gone 'this is a waste of time',” he said.
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“But they kept going and they kept going, they brought in an external barrister, they kept spending money, and it just got out of control.”
Bedford Borough Council said regulations were enforced in line with its duty at the time.
“We brought this case because there was ample evidence for a successful prosecution following the non-payment of a fixed penalty notice and because it was in the public interest,” said a council spokesperson.
“It is important that we remember that the threat posed by the virus then was very different to that which we face now.
“The pandemic isn't over but the combination of immunity from prior infection, vaccinations and antivirals has made it possible for us to return cautiously to the activities that we love.”
In 202, Mr Lowndes said he was willing to accept the potential fine.
Speaking to the MailOnline, he said: “The science doesn't back the shutdown of gyms. Garden centres are essential but gyms aren't? It's a farce.
“None of us have got huge wads of money but this is bigger than £10,000. If they shut us down now then they'll keep shutting us down.
“Gyms are part of the solution here, not part of the problem. We need to be allowed to stay open. We are going to stay open.”
Responding to the suggestion he would be contributing to spreading coronavirus by staying open, Alex said: “If you want to take that stance you should look at schools and universities.
“You've got to shut down everything if you're doing a lockdown.”