DuPage Health Department suing Wheaton gym owner who reopened fully

  • The owner of BrickHaus Fitness in Wheaton decided to reopen the gym even when it was prohibited under Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan.

    The owner of BrickHaus Fitness in Wheaton decided to reopen the gym even when it was prohibited under Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan.

 
 
Updated 6/4/2020 4:11 PM

The DuPage County Health Department is taking a Wheaton gym owner to court, trying to get him to obey state orders prohibiting such facilities from being fully open yet.

The state's attorney's office filed a request May 26 for a judicial order against Brickhaus Fitness at 266 E. Geneva Road. Judge Paul Fullerton will hear the case June 11.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Brickhaus owner Brandon Datavs reopened the gym May 15 -- mainly, he said, to help members maintain their mental health in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Illinois was in the second phase of its reopening plan, when gyms were not allowed to operate.

Now in Phase 3, gyms can reopen for personal training and outside exercise classes.

"If they (the health department) want to treat me like a criminal ... then I think they are more problematic to the (mental health) cause," Datavs said.

He said exercise, including the weightlifting popular at his gym, is proven to help people deal successfully with stress and other mental health issues. Weightlifting helped him when his mother died when he was 16, he said.

He also doesn't think there is much risk of catching COVID-19 at the gym. "We haven't had a single illness," Datavs said Thursday.

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Datavs said he has a full-time employee frequently cleaning the gym and its equipment, and he requires members to clean equipment after they use it. If they don't, he will suspend their membership.

He does not require people to wear masks, nor does he take their temperature. He asks people to stay home if they are sick.

He said government health authorities have given conflicting information, so people should be allowed to choose whether it is safe to use the gym.

"Give us our freedom, period," Datavs said. "That's our decision."

He said he believes competitors complained to Wheaton police about his reopening.

Wheaton Deputy Chief P.J. Youker said the department learned about it when Datavs gave a television news interview, and from "numerous" complaints.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The department issued a cease-and-desist letter on May 16. When Datavs did not obey, Wheaton turned the matter over to the health department, Youker said.

The health department told the Brickhaus on May 20 to shut down; when it served the paperwork, there were 35 to 45 people at the gym, according to court documents. A close order was delivered May 22, and another copy was delivered May 23, when there were 53 people at the gym, the court documents say.

Datavs said 60% to 70% of his members are police officers or members of the military. "They need this right now," he said, to deal with increased stress. Exercising at a police department gym doesn't provide the same support and camaraderie available at Brickhaus.

"I just decided to say 'Screw it' and open my doors," he said.

DuPage health officials declined to discuss the case. The state's attorney office has not filed such a case against any other business, according to its spokesman.

Authorities should expect several hundred people in court June 11, Datavs said, noting people worldwide have offered support on social media.

"The health department is going to have another thing coming. A lot of angry people will arise," he said.

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