TROUBLESHOOTER: How many non-essential businesses are essentially still open?

Updated: Apr. 24, 2020 at 6:57 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - In less than a month the city of Louisville received more than 2,000 complaints about businesses violating Governor Andy Beshear’s order to close non-essential businesses. The complaints were often that companies were either not social distancing or businesses were still operating that weren’t supposed to be.

Complaints like this one to the health department: “Aspirations Fitness Institute is keeping its doors open to train young athletes against the government’s orders. They turn the lobby lights out and have their clients park in surrounding parking lots to make it look like they are not open, beginning operations about 4 or 5 in the afternoon until about 8 at night.”

That complaint was sent eight days after records we requested from the city show the health department was at Aspirations Fitness on Eiler Avenue on April 1 following up a complaint. With no punitive action taken and the business still allegedly open, we were asked to investigate whatwas going on. We watched and recorded exactly what the complaint detailed.

From 4 to 8 p.m. we recorded what appeared to be young athletes dressed for workouts constantly coming and going from a side door at Aspirations. The parking lot was empty because they parked at neighboring businesses, except for the pizza guy delivering pizzas.

When we followed one athlete to the side door to try to talk to someone about this, it was immediately locked. All noise and music inside went silent and no one would answer my knocks. We waited for an hour and a half. When it became clear we weren’t leaving someone finally came out to talk to us.

“We’re doing a story on businesses defying the order to close,” I said.

“Not open,” the man said.

“We've been videotaping people coming and going from here for days actually,” I said.

“Not open,” he said.

“OK can we come in and look?” I asked.

“For what?” he said. “You have a warrant?”

The man who actually runs Aspirations Fitness is former University of Louisville football captain Chris Vaughn.

“Mr. Vaughn here?” I asked.

“Does it matter?” the man said.

“Because I'd like to hear his side of the story,” I said. “So go get him.”

“Call him,” he said.

“No I want to talk to him,” I said. “He’s in here.”

“Call him,” he said.

“He's right in here why can't I talk to him?” I said.

“Call him,” he said.

“Why are you guys playing these games with us,” I said. “I just want to ask him some questions.”

“Call him,” he repeated.

Eventually the founder of Aspirations came out and let us in.

“When we came up here, why did they lock the door on us?” I asked.

“Here’s spray bottles as you can see,” Vaughn said. “Here’s our disinfectant, Lysol bottle."

"We’ve been watching last couple days young athletes coming and going all the time,” I said.

“What we're doing is, we've been painting the walls, using the situation to remodel, also some lights are out so trying to fix light fixtures and things,” Vaughn said.

But it didn’t look like a remodel project at the time with Trinity high school and Purdue star Rondale Moore among those working out.

“The other people who are coming are all parking off premises and then coming here, trying to make it look like it’s not open,” I said.

“I don’t think anybody’s trying to make it look like anything,” Vaughn said. “As you can see sign says closed up front. We haven’t been open. One hundred percent agree with social distancing. Again, we’re also trying to help young men like Rondale who are trying to achieve goals."

We had a scheduled interview with the health department to talk about non-essential business enforcement. They canceled it and sent us their records so far. Of the 2,062 complaints, they show 21 Social Distance - Orders To Correct issued, and 31 orders since March 25 to cease operations followed by eight notations that businesses reopened after follow-up. But no order to cease operations at Aspirations where they insist they’re not operating.

“We’re not looking to do anything illegal,” Vaughn said. “We’re not out here trying to make money. But we are trying to help young men pursue their dream they’ve had since a young child.”

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