The Interior Health Authority (IHA) has ordered a Kelowna martial arts gym to cease operations for violating provincial COVID-19 orders.
“On Wednesday, IHA issued a closure order under the Provincial Health Act to Flow Academy,” said Lance Kayfish, risk manager for the City of Kelowna.
“The City has been working in partnership with IHA regarding this file. If they continue to operate in contravention of the order further enforcement is expected,” he said in an email.
The website for Flow Academy previously stated that face coverings are banned in the martial arts school.
The website went on to say that new memberships would be denied to people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Interior Health attended Flow Academy the evening of April 20 with RCMP and city bylaw staff to execute a search warrant and we were denied entrance by the operator,” Interior Health said in a statement.
“We issued a closure notice at that time based on ongoing non-compliance with public health orders and failure to comply with a court-issued warrant for inspection.”
The regional health authority said it is exploring additional enforcement action.
It’s not the first time Flow Academy and its owner, Tonya Aguiar, has run into trouble with health officials and law enforcement.
According to documents provided by IH, inspectors, flanked by RCMP, made several attempts to inspect the gym in February but were physically denied entry.
On February 25, Aguiar was issued a violation ticket for interfering with a health officer attempting to exercise a power under the Public Health Act.
Interior Health says evidence suggests the gym is offering group workouts currently banned by the provincial gatherings and events order, and as a result, “contributing to the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 in a place which constitutes a health hazard.”
Kayfish said Flow Academy on Sutherland Avenue has never had a business license to operate in the city. He said the gym did apply for a business licence in March but was denied.
“We in fact denied it for two reasons: one, because we didn’t believe them to be in compliance currently with public health orders, and also they did not receive approval from Interior Health to operate as they are,” he said.
The city has ticketed the business six times for operating without a business license, Kayfish said. The fines total $3,000.
The controversial anti-mask and anti-vaccine statements on the gym’s website have since been removed.
Flow Academy has now launched a donation campaign encouraging supporters to e-transfer them money to keep the lights on.
“We would like to make it clear that NO money collected by donations will go towards paying tickets or fines of any kind, nor lawyer fees,” the website stated.
“All proceeds made by donation will be used to support the basic needs of the business and owners such as monthly bills during this time.”
The gym did not immediately respond to a request for comment or indicate if they will comply with the order.