Gym owner fined £67,000 for breaking Covid laws and keeping work-out facility open

Andreas Michli will need to cough up £67,000 for a fine he received when he failed to close his gym (Image: SWNS)

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A gym owner has been fined £67,000 for breaking coronavirus rules and staying open despite lockdown rules banning it.

Andreas Michli, who claims he was staying open on the grounds his premises were being used by elite athletes, will also have to pay £9,000 in legal costs and the expense of 30 officers raiding his gym last week to shut it.

The 34-year-old had refused to stop operating his body-building gym in Wood Green, north London, vowing on social media to flout the Government's coronavirus lockdown rules announced by Boris Johnson two weeks ago.

He defied the lockdown rules – in force until December 2 – and remained open despite warnings from the council and the risk of arrest and a massive fine.

Michli previously vowed to defy lockdown rules in force till December 2 in a video on social media
(Image: SWNS)

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As a result dozens of police officers descended to close the work-out facilities at the Zone Gym and stop customers from exercising during two raids – one last Tuesday evening and another the following morning.

He was fined by the local council and ordered by magistrates last Thursday to keep the gym closed until yesterday, when another court hearing ruled he would have to stay shut until the lockdown ends.

Last week the London Borough of Haringey applied for a civil order to not only close the business but keep the building shut so not even Mr Michli could go inside.

A video on social media shows Michli "ripping up the fixed penalty notices and wiping your arse with them"
(Image: PHILIP COBURN)

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Yesterday magistrates ordered the gym to cease operating, but allowed Mr Michli to go inside his premises.

Highbury Corner Magistrates Court heard yesterday afternoon that a video of Mr Michli goading authorities and showing "contempt" for the fixed penalties he received was posted on social media on Monday evening.

He posted footage on Instagram of him in the gym ripping up the fixed penalty notices and wiping his backside with them, the court heard.

Wearing a black polo shirt and matching black shorts, he sat in the dock until being called to the dock to give evidence from the witness stand.

Tiernan Fitzgibbon, representing Haringey Council, told the court: "The video points to the defendant's behaviour and attitude towards the regulations which is why the council asked for the closure of the premises.

"It shows the closure is necessary to prevent the behaviour and public nuisance from reoccurring.

Michli claimed his facilities were used by professional body-builders making a living from the sport.
(Image: SWNS)

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"That video is of you [Mr Michli] ripping up the fixed penalty notices and wiping your arse with them."

The court heard some 15 to 20 people were seen outside the building when police raided the site, with around four or five customers trying to go inside.

Mark McDonald, representing the gym, called the order being applied for "Draconian" and argued the council had not given enough evidence that it was not being used by elite athletes to train.

He asked the director of public health at Haringey Council if he knew whether elite athletes or children – who are allowed to still use the facilities during lockdown – were at the gym during the period of restrictions.

Dr Will Maimaris said: "People were using the gym during the period of lockdown and that is not allowed under the regulations.

"We know this gym was open and letting people inside, so those people could be spreading the virus to others in the community.

The 34-year-old said he would be challenging through the courts the huge £67,000 fines he received.
(Image: SWNS)

"We know there's transmission in Haringey and cases are rising, so we know there is a risk to public health. The nationally mandated laws state gyms have to close for that reason during this period."

Mr Michli, who has owned his gym for around five years, claimed his facilities were used by professional body-builders making a living from the sport.

Speaking from the witness box, he said: "It's a specialist body-building gym, we have got national and worldwide champions training at our gym.

"They compete at a professional level and make money from that industry. These are the people who were using it during lockdown."

He also said he would be challenging through the courts the huge £67,000 fines he received.

Mr McDonald added: "The local authority does not have enough information about why people were using this gym, they didn't investigate or ask those who were there if they fall into the exceptions or try to find out their background."

Mr Fitzgibbon said the burden of proof was not with the council to prove who the customers were, but for the defence to submit evidence that they did fall into the exceptions of people allowed to still use gyms.

He told magistrates: "If the defendant wants to provide any evidence that they fall into the exceptions then that can be presented, but they have not provided any to show any athletes, schools or educational groups were using the gym. That's their prerogative.

Michli with friends and supporters at Highbury Magistratures court after facing a £67,000 fine
(Image: SWNS)

"There is criminal behaviour and a serious public nuisance by the breaching of the coronavirus regulations.

"There were people in the premises – that is a breach as people were outside without a reasonable excuse. There were repeated breaches of the regulations which is why this closure order has been sought.

"There is a risk of transmission in Haringey, exceptions exist but we have not been made aware of any exceptions that apply to this business.

"The defendant does not fall within any of these exceptions. The regulations are clear about the level of athletes that are exempt as it has to be people who make a living from their sport.

"He has publicly torn up the notices and repeatedly ignored requests to close from the council.

"He has shown contempt for the regulations and will continue to open in prohibition of those regulations if allowed to remain open, thwarting efforts by the local authority to bring the spread of the virus under control."

Mr McDonald claimed specialist gyms such as Mr Michli's are allowed to stay open, as are schools workplaces and courts.

He said: "Workplaces, schools and courts are allowed to stay open. Courts staying open pose a risk to public health but it's allowed as an acceptable risk so an exception is made.

"There is no evidence gyms pose any more of a risk than places such as schools. He falls into this exception, these are elite athletes using this gym."

Michli was reportedly applauded by a group of 20-strong supported while at Highbury Magistrates Court
(Image: SWNS)

But the magistrates ordered the closure of the building on the grounds gyms were mandated to close by the Government.

Chair of the bench Anna Kaposi said in the judgement: "We are satisfied on the balance of probabilities that people have committed criminal behaviour and we find that the exemptions for elite athletes do not apply.

"We find that all persons using the gym since November 5 were breaching the coronavirus regulations. Those gym users committed offences, as did Mr Michli in keeping his business open for them.

"We are satisfied it is likely to cause a serious nuisance to members of the public by community transmission of the virus.

"The decision was taken nationally that leisure facilities were to close during this period to stop transmission of the disease.

"We are satisfied this closure order is to be made in order as to prevent any further such behaviour from occurring."

The gym will have to shut its doors until midnight on December 2, with only Mr Michli allowed in the building to carry out maintenance and take deliveries.

Mr Michli was also ordered to pay £9,000 in costs to the council to pay for legal fees and the cost of the 30 PCs to raid the building last week.

After the hearing Mr Michli was greeted with cheers and applause from some of his 20 strong group of supporters who chanted his name as he left court.

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