ROSELLE PARK – Even though a Superior Court Judge shut down an illegal fitness business in early June, residents living in the West Clay Avenue area claim the owner is still “sneaking” customers in through the back door.
A “For Rent” sign may be up on the building where Easy Fitness with Jeanie previously operated, but residents living nearby say it is “business as usual” for business owner Regina Mendes Doman.
On June 3 Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy heard the case that has been bouncing from zoning officer, municipal court, local Land Use Board and other officials for well over a year.
Cassidy’s decision to shut down Easy Fitness with Jeanie because the business did not comply with local zoning laws had little leeway, but she did order that Doman can return to court July 8 and present any further evidence that her business complies.
Just a week after the court hearing where her business was shut down, residents said the business owner was seen sneaking customers in the back door and holding fitness classes.
Furthermore, they said Doman rented the site for a bridal shower which ended up causing her more problems with borough officials.
According to one town official, the health department had to be called to the former business site after residents complained there was a very strong odor of rotting garbage coming from the property.
Upon inspection a health official discovered mounds of garbage bags that were left by the people who rented the site for a bridal shower, the source said.
“This is ridiculous. A Superior Court judge shuts her down, tells her she can’t operate her fitness business and she turns around and defies the order,” said one resident, pointing out that Doman is “breaking the law and getting away with it.”
Another resident, who preferred their name not be used, said the business owner is still advertising the West Clay Avenue site as her business location but has also been looking for a site elsewhere.
“If you go on her website you can see she is letting people know that they can come to the VFW on South 21st Street in Kenilworth for two weeks to hold fitness classes,” said another resident, adding Doman also went to another fitness business to ask if she could hold classes there but was turned down.
LocalSource checked Doman’s website and found she was indeed hosting multiple classes Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at the VFW on South 21st Street in Kenilworth.
“The word is out about her and how she operates,” the resident said, adding that Doman “just moved her violations to Kenilworth.”
Doman has not been able to be reached for comment, but she is looking for another location, according to a local official who said he saw an ad she placed in the newspaper looking for a site to rent.
The issue of Doman not complying with zoning laws first surfaced more than a year ago after residents complained about patrons parking in front of their homes and blocking access to driveways in addition to very loud music coming from the establishment.
Eventually residents were able to use the Open Public Records Act to obtain the documents Doman submitted to the township and discovered the business owner was not truthful on her application.
Doman applied for and received certificate of occupancy for a business offering “health, nutrition counseling and services,” but actually held Zumba and other fitness classes to music, which is not permitted in that particular zone.
Parking was also a major problem since the fitness center operated Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 to noon.
Previously, a state agency occupied the space and operated from 8 to 4 p.m. with no weekend hours. Also, there was only 8 to 10 vehicles parking then, but Easy Fitness with Jeanie had as many as 20 vehicles requiring parking.
Residents eventually circulated a petition signed by 80 people after their pleas to borough officials fell on deaf ears.
Although Doman was eventually issued summonses for zoning and signage violations, the matter dragged on and continues to drag on despite resident’s efforts to bring closure to the entire issue.
“I don’t know what other options we have to close this business down if she is allowed to do whatever she wants,” said one resident, expressing disbelief that any business owner could be allowed “to get away with what she does.”