Gym owner who supported Staten Island bar that defied coronavirus regulations calls lockdowns ‘nonsensical’

A New Jersey gym owner who attended a Staten Islandrally in support of the bar proprietor arrested for defying the state's coronavirus restrictions called the lockdowns "nonsensical" on Thursday.

Supporters of New York City bar owner Danny Presti gathered in front of the business to protest his arrest this week for flouting coronavirus restrictions and refusing to close down. Ian Smith, the owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., and co-owner Frank Trumbetti faced similar consequences for reopening in violation of state and local coronavirus guidelines. The defiances led to Smith getting arrested and his building being boarded up by local officials.

“I was there because [Frank Trumbetti] and I received an overwhelming amount of love and support and that really helped us stay strong and it helped us stay open. You know, we have been open ever since. So it’s my duty to return the favor and encourage every other small business owner,” Smith told “Fox & Friends."

Around 60 people assembled in front of Mac’s Public House in Staten Island after Presti was taken away in handcuffs Tuesday night. Many businesses – particularly restaurants and bars – have been hurt by government-mandated closures in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Holding signs, the protesters sang "God Bless America" and the chorus to Twisted Sister's “We’re Not Gonna Take It."


“It’s a scary thing to open up against the government," Smith said. "And I wanted to be there to provide as much support and input for Danny and his partner and just encourage him that he is doing the right thing. The crowd was amazing. They were supportive. They were there and everybody is just sick and tired of these lockdowns that are nonsensical, that are hit or miss for some people, and people are just getting very, very fed up.”

One sign read: “Lock up criminals, not Americans.”

“To me this is a revolution,” Christine Salica of Westerleigh, a make-up artist who has been out of work since March, told the Staten Island Advance. “[New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo and his legislators are collecting our paychecks and they are putting us out of work.”

The bar has been fined thousands of dollars as it continues serving patrons indoors and operating past the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurant service that Cuomo imposed citywide.

Plainclothes New York City sheriff's deputies were inside the bar on Tuesday and ordered food in exchange for a mandatory $40 donation. Uniformed deputies then entered and issued tickets for city and state violations. 

Smith said that the gym has not charged its members for using their facility since April 1 because New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy took their business license through the New Jersey court system. The gym is “relying strictly on donations.”

Smith pressed that the lockdowns “have proven not to work.”

“They didn’t work the first time around. Cases are up because testing is up. Deaths are down. They keep singing the same song over and over again. It’s less believable and credible every time. And people are done with it,” Smith said.


“I encourage every single small business in America to do exactly what Danny did. Do exactly what Frank and I did," he added. "The reality is, once we hit a critical point of businesses that open and a certain amount of them open … there are not enough sheriffs, there are not enough police officers to come and arrest us all."

Fox News' Louis Casiano contributed to this report.