Cyber Report #1107

E-dition No. 1,107 • Friday, May 1, 2020

Editor: Bob Johnson (bjibob@aol.com)

OKC Center Sets Protocols for Friday Reopening

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.

Few Georgia Centers Reopen Despite Green Light

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 Governor Okays Theaters, Delays Bowling Centers

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 Proprietors Hoping for Strong Comeback

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/.

Trust Is a Must’ Has a New Meaning in Bowling

Are you old enough to remember Billy Welu’s famous saying on “Pro Bowlers Tour” telecasts back in the day?

Noted the hall of fame bowler and sidekick to Chris Schenkel: “Trust is a must or your game is a bust.”

Well, trust is going to play a critical role in the success of all service businesses such as restaurants, bars and bowling centers in our post-pandemic world according to Jon Taffer, host of “Bar Rescue” on the Paramount Network.

Rather than freaking out about the pandemic, I’ve just been focused on: What do our businesses look like when we’re open?” Taffer said in an interview with John Katsilometes of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Things are going to be different.”

Much of that difference, Taffer said, will revolve around how much customers trust a business to provide a clean and safe environment.

You’ll go to a restaurant that has your second-favorite hamburger rather than your first-favorite hamburger because you trust them more, with regard to their practices. That is a big change in the whole dynamic of doing business.”

For bowling centers, that will mean marketing their cleanliness protocols just as they market their special offers and promotions. Even more important, it will mean sticking to those protocols and making them very apparent to customers who come through the doors.

For years, centers have placed check-off “time cards” on the walls of their restrooms not only to ensure that that restrooms are cleaned on a regular basis, but to demonstrate to customers that cleanliness is part of the business model. Now, visual evidence of cleaning procedures will need to extend far beyond the restrooms, to every corner of the facility.

We live in a culture of accountability right now,” Taffer added. “We have to do this [reopen] in a smart way.”

A Rare Second Chance to Make a First Impression

The Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America has launched the “BPAA Reopening Resource Center” to provide member centers with tools, best practices and resources to help during the reopening process.

The resources are arranged into six categories:

* Marketing

*Staffing

*Bowling

*Food & Beverage

*Attractions

*Resources

As the BPAA education team notes, everyone wants to provide a safe place for their staff members and guests — but what will that look like in this “temporary normal” that everyone will experience? 

The pandemic is providing a rare second chance for bowling centers to make a good first impression, and the resources provided in the “BPAA Reopening Resource Center” can be adapted by center operators to address their unique needs and challenges.

The education team is available to answer questions at education@bpaa.com. Proprietors may use that same email address to share their own best-practices ideas.

To learn more about BPAA’s Reopening Resource Center, click here: http://bowlinguniversity.net/opening.

Bowling University also has introduced a new online, on-demand training course called “COVID-19: Social Distancing and Personal Hygiene.” The course includes important information from the CDC and World Health Organization.

Team members who complete the course can display their certificates in the center or on a center’s Facebook page to demonstrate to guests that a center and its team are informed and working to provide a clean, safe and fun environment for guests.

More COVID-19 Updates from Our Bowling Family

* On April 18, BPAA Executive Director Frank DeSocio and Government Affairs Committee Chair Roger Nyquist sent a letter to Senate and House leaders urging Congress to “take action to support thousands of bowling proprietors and other small businesses across the country by increasing funding for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by $250 billion and renewing funding for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL).” The letter also noted: “In determining loan forgiveness under the PPP, the CARES Act provides that borrowers have until June 30, 2020 to restore their full-time employment and salary levels. We ask that Congress amend this date to Aug. 31, 2020 to account for small businesses that have been completely shut down. Flexibility is needed to support both our small businesses and our hard-working employees.”

* Kegel has announced that the company will extend the warranties on all of its lane machines. For all customers with active warranties as of March 1, 2020, coverage has been extended for an additional six months past the original expiration date. With widespread closures of bowling centers, many lane machines have not been in use. Gus Falgien, Kegel’s Vice President of Sales, said, “We hope this warranty extension will provide a small sense of relief to bowling centers during this difficult time.”

* After being forced to cancel the Storm Youth Championships tournament at Mermaid Lanes in Mounds, Minn., which had been scheduled for April 18-19, Storm now has postponed the SYC event set for May 23-24 at Smyrna Bowling Center in Smyrna, Tenn. At least for now, the June 13-14 tournament at Western Bowl and Expo Bowl in Indianapolis remains on the schedule, as do four other events in August, September, October and November. The SYC season kicked off at the South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas in February, just before the coronavirus began causing the postponement or cancellation of events throughout the bowling world. Storm said it was working with the local bowling community in Smyrna to determine if the postponed event could be moved to later in the summer.

* New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has famously asked New Yorkers to snitch on fellow residents that do not practice social distancing during the pandemic. Apparently his “suggestion” was taken to heart by a resident of Lowville, N.Y. — 300 miles northwest of the city — who complained that QubicaAMF was violating state mandates to shutter non-essential businesses by continuing to operate its bowling pin manufacturing plant. But as Wayne White, Vice President and General Manager of the pins division, said, “We’re a wood products company, and you can’t leave that wood outside for an extended period of time.” White’s position was backed up by Lewis County Manager Ryan M. Piche and Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Brittany Davis, who noted that state provisions allow companies that keep materials outside to “move through their inventory” so it isn’t destroyed or damaged by the elements. “We’re very grateful we were allowed to continue to operate,” said White, who pegged the value of the wood inventory at more than $300,000.

* Bowling has always been big in Wisconsin, and one of the state’s better-known centers is the Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in Green Bay. Although the center has lost its league, tournament, open bowling and birthday party business because of the coronavirus, it has been allowed to keep its restaurant open for take-out. Proprietor Dave LaBar and a very enthusiastic customer were featured this week on NBC-26’s “We’re Open” series. You can view that segment here: https://www.nbc26.com/were-open/were-open-ashwaubenon-bowling-alley. Take one glimpse of the cheeseburger from the center’s Field House Bar & Grill, and your stomach will start to growl.

* Among the new protocols being followed at Classic Bowling Center and Floyd Bowling and Amusement Center in Rome, Ga., is the cleaning of house balls after each use — the outside of the ball, and inside the finger holes as well. An 80% alcohol cleaner is being utilized. “We are being extra careful and doing everything we can do make sure people are not only having a great time, but staying safe at the same time,” proprietor Bart Kinne told the Coosa Valley News. Read about Kinne’s other mitigation efforts here: https://coosavalleynews.com/2020/04/rome-bowling-alleys-stay-clean-good-times-roll/.

* The May issue of BCM details a number of meetings and educational events postponed or cancelled by various state proprietor associations. To that list you may add the Connecticut BPA’s board of directors meeting and Anti-Harassment Boot Camp, which had been scheduled for April 7, and the West Virginia BPA’s board meeting, which had been scheduled for April 15.

* Carey Tosello, founder of eBowl.biz, is suggesting to bowling center owners who do not accept cashless payments that now is the time to start doing so. “We all know that millennials carry little to no cash on them already,” Tosello says. “And let’s face it: Cash is dirty. Credit cards are much easier to clean, and if you don’t take tap-to-pay already, you [also] should do that right now. Allowing people to pay with their phone — which is already in their hand — is fast, simple, safer than a chip, and nobody has to touch your terminal or hand you a card.”

BCM, BJI Provide Extensive COVID-19 Coverage in May Editions

While the May issues of Bowling Center Management and Bowlers Journal International are a bit smaller than usual, they’re nonetheless packed with important information and top-quality features that BCM and BJI readers have come to depend on after a combined 132 years serving the bowling family.

We felt it was critical to move forward with print editions of the magazines because, in times of crisis, our readers depend on BCM and BJI for information, perspective and even a little entertainment.

The May issue of BJI features USBC Hall of Famer and nurse practitioner Kim Adler on the cover, and shares her perspective — along with Brenda Mack’s and Erin McCarthy’s — from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an absolutely riveting read.

The issue also includes a behind-closed-doors — literally — feature on Jason Belmonte’s 13th major tournament victory as the PBA World Series of Bowling was cut short in Las Vegas.

Also from Las Vegas, you’ll learn how the Golden Ladies Classic managed to crown champions even as casinos all across town were closing down.

Also in the May BJI:

* Collegiate player Matt Hibbard on the gut-wrenching cancellation of the Intercollegiate Team and Singles Championships.

* A fascinating historic feature on how bowling bounced back from the Spanish Flu pandemic of the early 20th century.

* How one PBA tournament — the 1966 St. Paul Open — saw 22 of the 128 entrants withdraw due to the flu.

* A look at how the pandemic — date by date and event by event — has scorched the bowling landscape in 2020.

* Columns offering a mix of straight talk, hope, concern and even a sense of normalcy.

We even managed to squeeze in a “Generation Next” spotlight, some non-COVID news from around the bowling world, the ever-popular Yesteryear department, reviews of 10 new bowling balls, a full page of business news (some coronavirus related, some not), and 19 mini-stories on an array of products and services.

The May issue of BCM also is heavy on COVID-19 material, but from a strictly business perspective. We’re particularly proud of this edition because the information it contains will serve proprietors not only in the weeks and months ahead, but for years to come. In other words, it’s a keeper.

A sampling of what you’ll find in this must-read issue:

* Dozens of business-related and state proprietor association reports on how the pandemic is impacting the business of bowling.

* A look at COVID-19 survival for U.S. small businesses from our Accounting columnist.

* A plan for filling lanes while honoring the pandemic’s heroes from our Marketing columnist.

* How politics inexplicably led to a delay in COVID-19 relief from our Legislation columnist.

* In BEC Monthly, details on the launch of a recovery website, and other pandemic-related news.

* An in-depth cover story detailing the impact of COVID-19 on our industry.

* A special feature on how bowling manufacturers and bowling proprietors have stepped up during the pandemic.

* Social media strategies for engaging guests in a post-pandemic paradigm.

* Replacing condiment squeeze bottles in bowling center restaurants and snack bars (in our Food & Beverage department).

* Using daily specials and bounce-back coupons to speed the recovery (in our Promotion Hotline department).

* Driving post-pandemic traffic with your full digital tool box (in our Digital Digest department).

* A “Must Read” for setting new goals and managing your team as proprietors deal with the “temporary normal.”

And just so this issue isn’t exclusively about the pandemic, we’ve included a 40th anniversary feature on Steltronic, our regular “Timeline” department, a “One of Us” proprietor profile, a look at some of bowling’s latest business-focused products and services, and more.

All told, we were able to publish more than 100 pages in this most difficult time for BJI and BCM readers — because at a time like this, bowlers, bowling fans and bowling proprietors need their bowling magazines.

Other News You Can Use…

* A reminder that the deadline to apply for the inaugural Daroll & Dee Frewing Scholarship has been extended to May 15. The scholarship, valued at $25,000, is available to BPAA family members in their senior year of high school. For eligibility details and to download and application, click here: https://www.bowlingmuseum.com/Get-Involved/Daroll-Dolores-Frewing-Scholarship.

* While COVID-19 has turned the world upside down for all of us, the uncertainties it presents are particularly stark for Jason Belmonte. The Australian superstar is even less sure than PBA Tour competitors residing in the United States as to when he might have the opportunity to shoe up and bowl a tour stop again. Sure, the day the PBA Tour resumes will be a great one for tour players and for the bowling industry as a whole, but will players like Belmonte or other international stars be allowed to board international flights by then? Even if they are, will they be required to first quarantine themselves potentially for weeks before even being able to think about hitting the lanes? And in Belmonte’s case, the postponement of the PBA Tour’s 2020 season necessitated by COVID-19 came just as he once again was soaring on tour, making the show in nearly every event he had bowled in 2020, winning the U.S. Open to complete the tour’s “Super Slam,” and winning his record 13th major at the World Championship. Belmonte discusses those and other aspects of COVIS-19’s impact on his family, career and on the bowling industry on this new episode of The Bowlers Journal Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/user-658733792/podcast-jason-belmonte-discusses-covid-19s-impact-on-his-family-career-and-more.

* Upcoming podcasts produced at the International Bowling Campus include: April 30 at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside The OC with AJ Chapman on BowlTV.com and OC Facebook (live); May 1 at 1 p.m. Eastern, The Sport of Bowling Show with Chad Murphy on BowlTV.com and USBC Facebook (live); and May 1 at 3 p.m. Eastern, The PWBA Podcast with Sydney Brummett on BowlTV.com (live).

* The United States Bowling Congress has proposed adjusting the specification for ball hardness to 73D for all models. As part of the specification change, USBC proposes eliminating the use of field tests to check bowling ball hardness because of challenges related to workability, temperature control and variances in testing devices. Manufacturers will be asked to discontinue additional production of models previously approved below 73D by July 31, 2021. USBC is providing a comment period for manufacturers through June 1, 2020, on the proposed changes.

* The guest this week on Phantom Radio is John McLaughlin, taking part in the program’s ongoing trivia contest. To see how McLaughlin fared, click here: https://kegel.squarespace.com/phantomblog/2020/4/29/john-mclaughlin-phantom-radio.

* CONTACT: Please send business news, event information, etc. to Bob Johnson at bjibob@aol.com. For breaking business news, visit bcmmag.com or bowlersjournal.com, “Like” Bowling Center Management and Bowlers Journal International on Facebook, and follow BJI on Twitter (Twitter.com/BowlersJournal). BJI Cyber Reports are now archived at bcmmag.com. Please remember that the Cyber Report is a B-to-B publication and not intended for consumers.

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