CENTER REOPENING UPDATES FROM 4 STATES

OKLAHOMA

After being shut down due to the coronavirus, Holiday Bowling Center in Oklahoma City will be among the first centers outside Georgia to reopen when it offers limited hours and limited lanes on Friday.

Plans call for the center to open at 3 p.m. and close at 9 p.m., and to make every other lane available to groups of no more than six people.

Employees will have their temperature checked daily, and those with a fever will take the day off. Employees who deal face-to-face with customers will be required to wear masks.

That’s a protocol center operators are expected to embrace in various states as they follow guidelines established by the federal government as well as state governors.

Another center in OKC, Heritage Lanes, also is expected to reopen on Friday.

 

GEORGIA

With most states planning to reopen in “phases,” many bowling proprietors were hoping to fly under the radar in hopes of being included in one of the early phases — in other words, not necessarily being “called out.”

That strategy went out the window when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp listed “bowling alleys” among the businesses that would be allowed to reopen first in the Peach State, along with gyms, barber shops, hair salons and tattoo parlors.

The situation was exacerbated when Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms publicly disagreed with the governor, saying, “As I look at people standing in line for haircuts and to get their nails done, what we are essentially saying in Georgia is, ‘’Go bowling and we’ll have a [hospital] bed waiting on you.’ That’s not what our approach should be to COVID-19.”

The mayor’s comments probably impacted the public’s willingness to go bowling, even though centers were taking extraordinary measures to provide clean and safe environments.

TMZ Sports reported that it had called every bowling center in Georgia, but found only 25 that were up and running. At those centers, operators were reporting that business was extremely slow.

Here’s what else TMZ Sports found:

* Every active center had implemented social-distancing protocols. Most were screening staffer members by taking their temperatures before they could go to work. A few centers also were screening customers, and nearly every center was leaving lanes dark between groups.

* Some centers are requiring customers to book lanes in advance, and taking payment over the phone in order to reduce person-to-person interaction.

* Some centers are asking customers to request rental shoes over the phone so staff members can have them ready when the guests arrive. After bowling, the shoes are disinfected by staffers wearing PPE.

Summarized one center employee: “It’s not profitable, but we’re hanging in there.”

The Bowlero center in Norcross opened with modified hours, enhanced health and safety standards, and new rules that guests are being asked to follow. You can review the company’s guidelines here: https://www.bowlero.com/COVID.

Meanwhile, other center operators in Georgia seem to be taking a wait-and-see stance, giving the pandemic an opportunity to subside further before reopening. That’s the case with Stars and Strikes in Columbus.

“Number one, first and foremost, is the safety of our guests and our team members,” General Manager Arlen Mott told WLTZ News. “Until we get something in place that we feel is going to be something adequate to address that, then we don’t have a date that we can give anyone.”

Added Mott: “We are frantically working on putting all the pieces together to make sure that when we do open up, we have a safe place for everyone. We have processes in place to ensure that we are sanitizing, cleaning and [can] facilitate social distancing.”

 

TEXAS

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott announced on Monday that retail services such as movie theaters, malls, restaurants and stores could reopen Friday. But it appears that bowling centers have been placed into a subsequent reopening phase.

“We were hoping to be able to be open May 1 in some capacity,” Jim Maxson, co-owner of Bowlerama in Killeen, Texas, told the Killeen Daily Herald. “Now they’re saying May 18 for us… We can live with that.”

In order to adhere to social-distancing guidelines, Bowlerama will operate 12 of its 24 lanes, with a maximum of five bowlers per lane, when it reopens.

Customers who do not own their own equipment will be asked to leave their rental shoes and house balls in their lane area once they finish. Staff members then will disinfect them before making them available to other guests.

A big question for many center operators during the weeks that they have been closed has involved the status of their in-progress leagues. Most full-season leagues were entering the home stretch of their schedule when centers were forced to shut down.

At Bowlerama, Maxson says leagues will complete their schedules “on a rotational basis” so that all league members are not in the center at the same time.

Another center in Killeen, Hallmark Lanes, reached agreements with leagues to end their season early, declaring the team standings at the time the center closed as final.

When Hallmark Lanes reopens, Manager Karin Ciesiolka says employees will wear masks, and adds that sneeze guards have been placed at all counters where customers interact with employees.

 

MINNESOTA

According to Josh Hodney, Executive Director of the Bowling Proprietors Association of Minnesota, most of the roughly 180-plus bowling centers in the Gopher State were thriving — until they were forced to shut down due to the coronavirus.

In a story for the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Nick Ferraro spoke with several Minnesota proprietors. Here is a sampling of the comments he gathered:

* Scott Koecheler, co-owner of Bogart’s Entertainment Center in Apple Valley: “There are some scary things happening that we have no control over. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best when we do get the okay to get back into business… It’s brutal, just brutal, to have somebody from an outside perspective say, ‘Lock your door and go home. You’re done.’”

* Brent Prentice, co-owner of Cedarvale Lanes in Eagan: “They shut us down during our prime months. What you do in the bowling industry is you make as much as you can for nine months, so you can lose it all in three.”

* Adam Flaherty of Flaherty’s Arden Bowl in Arden Hills: “It’s really surreal just to see all the lights off here… But you know what? We’ll come back.”

Flaherty’s fellow Minnesota proprietors, as well as bowling center owners across the country, hope he’s right.

Read Ferraro’s story here: https://www.twincities.com/2020/04/24/twin-cities-bowling-centers-on-the-edge-of-survival-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/.

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