Cyber Report #1119

E-dition No. 1,119 • Friday, July 24, 2020

Editor: Bob Johnson (bjibob@aol.com)

75 North Carolina Centers Reopen… Then Are Shut Down Again

Considering BPAA Past President Nancy Schenk is North Carolina Legislative Chair of the Bowling Proprietors Association of the Carolinas and Georgia, it should come as no surprise that the 75 BPAC/GA-member centers in the Tar Heel State were allowed to open their doors.

Not long after businesses began to reopen in North Carolina, Schenk publicly questioned Governor Roy Cooper’s mandates, wondering why bowling centers were excluded. Realizing that nothing was likely to happen unless action was taken, Schenk, BPAC/GA President Melanie Campbell and Executive Director Renee Denis went to work.

The result: Based on a ruling by North Carolina Business Court Judge James Gale, member centers were allowed to reopen with a lengthy list of safety guidelines and practices provided by the court — virtually all of which centers were prepared to enact anyway.

The BPAC/GA was represented in the action by attorney Anthony Biller of the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm.

The association’s motion for a preliminary injunction was heard in front of Judge Gale on July 1, asking for the right to reopen under restrictions similar to those of other businesses then being allowed to operate. BPAC/GA preparedness was described as “a large factor in our success” by Campbell, who noted that “much of the guidance from the 17-page BPAA COVID-19 Response Manual was incorporated into the judge’s order.”

But at midnight on July 18, centers were forced to close again by the North Carolina Supreme Court while it reviewed an appeal from Cooper. As Carolina Coast reported, Democrats hold a 6-1 majority on the state’s highest court, with the chief justice and one associate justice having been appointed by Cooper. This means the Democratic governor is unlikely to face partisan opposition from the Supreme Court.

Without the fear of his action surviving judicial review, Cooper is able to issue mandates that are nearly impossible for small businesses such as bowling centers to overcome.

Judge Gale referred to a legal standard called “reasonable relationship” in his opinion on bowling centers. The Supreme Court could have allowed Gale’s order to stand as the case worked its way through the legal process. Instead, Carolina Coast noted, the justices accepted Cooper’s request to block the trial court order. And that meant the centers had to close again.

Now, Cooper and the bowling centers have until Aug. 19 to file all arguments and paperwork in the case for the justices to review. But by then, some of the centers may have blown through their reserves, leaving them unable to reopen even when finally allowed to.

The situation is making many people re-think how they’ll vote in the November elections. Carolina Coast quoted the mother of a 22-year-old autistic son who was having one of his most cherished activities taken away with centers again being shut down.

I’m most frustrated with Roy Cooper,” Jennifer Clapton said. “I’m not even a Republican, and I’m afraid he’s going to make me vote that way.”

Governor Pritzker Has Thrown a Gutter Ball’ in Illinois

Bowling center proprietors in Illinois were allowed to reopen by Governor J.B. Pritzker on June 26, but with perhaps the most unusual limitation yet seen in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic: Centers could open, but all were limited to no more than 50 people at a time for bowling.

The same limitation applied to an eight-lane center as to a 60-lane center. Thus, an eight-laner could be running at well above normal lane capacity, while a 60-laner would be more like an echo chamber.

Restaurants are allowed to fully reopen inside dining with 6-ft. spacing,” noted Henry Barber, proprietor of Hillside Bowl in Hillside, Ill. “Youth and recreational sports are allowed 50% occupancy for participants, with an additional 20% capacity for spectators. Health clubs can have 50% occupancy with 6-ft. spacing. All we want is the same treatment.”

But that equal treatment was not forthcoming, and the Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association formed a task force to address the issue. On July 14, the ISBPA filed a lawsuit asking a Lee County state court to invalidate the governor’s “unconstitutional and improper” exercise of authority.

Frankly, Governor Pritzker has thrown a gutter ball on this one,” said Bill Duff, Executive Director of the association. “Even medical experts agree that bowling is not a highly dangerous activity with regard to COVID-19 spread.

As the businesses of our members buckle under the governor’s orders, it’s hard to explain to employees, the bowling public and family members why other activities rated by experts as more dangerous than bowling enjoy the governor’s favor,” Duff added. “That’s why we want the court to intervene and put a stop to this before more harm is caused.”

Strip Clubs Reopen Ahead of Bowling Centers in New York

California’s centers have once again been shut down by Governor Gavin Newsom, and across the country in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to allow centers to reopen.

The plight of Empire State proprietors was shared by New York City’s CBS affiliate, which aired comments from Joe LaSpina, Joseph DeStefano, John LaSpina and Chris Keller. The proprietors made the case that their centers were large enough to provide plenty of social distancing, and that the mandated closure was threatening their livelihoods.

You can watch the full report here: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/07/17/bowling-alley-owners-left-out-of-phase-4/.

In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak originally grouped bowling centers with strip clubs in his phased reopening of the state. Ultimately, he separated the two, allowing bowling centers to reopen while strip clubs remained closed.

In New York, the two types of businesses also are in different groupings. But as bowling centers remained shuttered, Governor Cuomo allowed gentlemen’s clubs to reopen.

Pandemic Claims Center Owned by Young Entrepreneur

Unfortunately, Miller Lanes, a 16-lane center in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., could not wait out Governor Cuomo’s mandate.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, proprietor Brad Miller wrote: “It’s with a heavy heart to have to write this post. As of August 1, Miller Lanes will be officially closing due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, without a time table STILL from our government to be able to operate business, we can no longer stay in business. The building is up for sale. We would like to thank everybody from the bottom of our hearts for the support the last five years to continue a business and staple in this community that has meant so much to myself and the rest of our staff. THANK YOU! This has been a great community to grow up in, and at 22 years old to have the opportunity I did for the last five years, I will forever cherish [that]… We will all get through this together.”

Miller, you may recall, made news in early 2015 when he acquired the bowling center, then known as Brongo Bowl, although barely into his twenties. While growing up, he took the bus to the center after school, and proprietor Tom Brongo would give him money to spend in the arcade. Brongo was the best man at the wedding of Miller’s parents.

The building that housed Miller Lanes was transformed into a bowling center in the mid-1940s. It had been serving Honeoye Falls — known for its small waterfall on Honeoye Creek, which flows through the village — ever since.

Noted BPAA past President John LaSpina in a Facebook post about the closure: “This is why we are lobbying our governor. Small businesses are folding due to COVID. It’s time for government to have confidence in the professionalism of me and my colleagues who will operate safely in the post-COVID world.”

Marketing Idea No. 1: Quick-Turnaround Coupons

Not to make light of any aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, but you know you’re dealing with something serious when 7-Eleven cancels its annual “Free Slurpee Day.”

That’s what happened on July 11 (a.k.a. 7/11) as America’s largest convenience store chain decided that pushing 9 million people into its stores on a single day probably wasn’t a good idea at a time when social distancing is considered one of the top ways to defeat the virus.

Members of the company’s loyalty program were not shut out, however. They received a coupon redeemable for a free medium Slurpee that could be redeemed on any day in July.

Bounce-back coupons with near-term expiration dates are being used by some bowling center proprietors to promote quick repeat business as they seek to generate as much revenue as possible while operating under limited-capacity mandates.

Marketing Idea No. 2: Reward Guests for Wearing Face Coverings

All of the best marketing ideas are stolen… uh, make that borrowed… from other ideas, and bowling proprietors may want to consider emulating a program initiated by Caesars Entertainment as it reopened five of its Las Vegas Strip properties.

Before the wearing of face coverings in all public places was mandated by the Nevada governor, Caesars was strongly urging customers to don them to help protect their team members as well as guests. The company sent a promotions team through the casinos, and randomly handed out $20 bills to patrons who were wearing masks.

Bowling proprietors also could reward mark-wearing guests — particularly in states where they are recommended but not required — by handing out arcade cards, free-game coupons, free-drink coupons or other random gifts.

Although this is an unquestionably challenging time for the bowling business, it also presents an opportunity for proprietors to strengthen rapport with existing customers and forge relationships with new customers.

String and Free-Fall Machines Set for Florida Doubleheader

Stars of the PBA, PWBA, PBA50 Tour and Team USA will be converging on HeadPinz Entertainment Center in Naples, Fla., this weekend for the inaugural QubicaAMF “Some Strings Attached” Invitational, billed as “the world’s first combination string and free-fall tournament.”

The format calls for entrants to bowl across 16 lanes — eight equipped with EDGE String Pinspotters and eight with free-fall machines. The semifinals and stepladder finals will take place on the EDGE String lanes.

The event will be streamed on BowlStreamTV at https://youtu.be/g5Yswa0OYIA.

Among the household names scheduled to compete are Walter Ray Williams Jr., Norm Duke, Amleto Monacelli, Jason Couch, Verity Crawley, Tom Daugherty, Ashley Galante, Nate Garcia, John Janawicz, Chris Keane, Matt McNeil and David O’Sullivan.

This really is shaping up to be a fantastic event,” said Pat Ciniello, owner of the Bowland and HeadPinz Entertainment Center chain in Southwest Florida and Chairman of the Board of QubicaAMF. “The level of players in the field is outstanding, and is sure to offer up some very exciting and competitive play.”

The tournament is open to 48 bowlers by invitation only. The top 12 qualifiers will advance to the second round of three games, followed by a top-five stepladder finals on EDGE String pinspotters to determine the winner.

The first-place prize is a guaranteed $5,000, with an estimated prize fund of more than $15,000. QubicaAMF will offer an additional $5,000 to a bowler shooting 300 in the semifinals or stepladder finals. Multiple 300s will split the perfect-game bonus.

On Sunday at noon, the “Some Strings Attached” Open will take place, utilizing the same format as Saturday’s event. The first-place prize is $1,500, with a total prize fund of more than $5,000. That event also will be streamed on BowlStreamTV.

In light of the pandemic, health-and-safety measures following state and federal guidelines will be in place during both tournaments. There will be no spectators allowed in the bowling area, social distancing will be in place, and everyone in the area will wear face coverings unless they are bowling.

How the Pandemic Is Impacting Global Bowling Growth

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for bowling centers, estimated at $11.2 billion this year, is projected to reach a revised size of $13.4 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 2.6% over the period 2020-2027, Business Wire reports.

The bowling-center market in the U.S. is estimated at $3 billion in 2020. The country currently accounts for a 27.04% share in the global market.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is forecast to reach an estimated market size of $2.7 billion in 2027, trailing a CAGR of 4.8% through that year.

Among the other noteworthy geographic markets are Japan and Canada, forecast to grow at 0.6% and 1.9%, respectively, over the 2020-2027 period.

Within Europe, Germany is forecast to grow at approximately 1.2% CAGR, while the rest of the European market (as defined in the study) will reach $2.7 billion by the year 2027.

The 311-page report provides concise insights into how the pandemic has impacted production and the buy side for 2020 and 2021. A short-term phased recovery by key geography also is addressed.

World Bowling to Use ‘GameDay’ Platform from Stack Sports

In a new agreement aimed at increasing its global connectivity, World Bowling will adopt GameDay, Stack Sports’ registration, events and website platform.

The agreement affirms that Stack Sports — a digital provider for sports organizations in Europe, Australia and New Zealand — will provide GameDay, its next-generation membership and events platform, to service World Bowling’s numerous sanctioned events around the world.

Stack’s system is designed to simplify and digitize the registration and administration processes for all members and competitors across World Bowling’s portfolio of events, beginning in October.

As part of the partnership, and in line with World Bowling’s post COVID-19 strategic Initiatives, GameDay will be made available to all five continental zones and the current 114 member federations.

The partnership enables bowling to capitalize on the global connectivity of more than 200,000 bowling lanes and 160 million bowlers annually.

With the launch of QubicaAMF’s partnership, ParaBowling World Cup and IBX Tour in 2021, GameDay will offer the functionality to World Bowling to optimize tournament data from individual athletes and their member federations with defined ranking and career tracking through each event and year.

Birthday Party Behemoth Files for Bankruptcy Protection

The parent company of Chuck E. Cheese entertainment centers — the leading competitor of bowling center operators for children’s birthday parties — has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

As has been the case with bowling centers, Chuck E. Cheese locations have been forced to close during the pandemic, further complicating the balance sheet for a company already dealing with substantial debt accumulated in a private equity buyout several years ago.

CEC Entertainment, which operates more than 600 Chuck E. Cheese center and more than 220 Peter Piper Pizza locations in all but three states, as well as 16 other countries or territories, said in its bankruptcy petition that it has $2 billion in debt and $1.7 billion in liabilities.

Among the actions being taken by the company is negotiating lower rent payments with landlords.

Other News You Can Use…

* You can’t stop people who really want to bowl from taking part in their favorite sport. In Michigan, where centers are on a very short list of businesses still not allowed to reopen, there have been numerous reports of bowlers crossing the state line into Ohio to compete in tournaments. In New York, bowlers have made appointments at their home centers to pick up equipment from their lockers so they could go bowling in New Jersey and Connecticut. And in California, at least one center at a Native American-owned casino has been hosting events, even as the state’s other bowling centers have been ordered closed by the governor.

* On July 15, the Bowling Centers Association of Michigan launched a Facebook page called “Open MI Bowling Centers Now,” hoping to send a message that would be heard by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

* Wesley Low is the latest to roll a 900 series. He did it in a tournament that called for two games to be rolled on a pair of lanes before the bowlers moved on to the next pair. So Low is the first to roll a 900 across four lanes, and also the first to roll one with a MOTIV bowling ball — specifically, a MOTIV Alpha Jackal.

*  Kyle Troup prevailed in back-to-back matches to win his first PBA Tour Finals and sixth Go Bowling PBA Tour title of his career, defeating Anthony Simonsen in the title match. Troup received $30,000 for the win. Report: https://www.bowlersjournal.com/kyle-troup-wins-sixth-pba-tour-title-with-tour-finals-victory/.

* The PBA King of the Lanes’ Golden Strike promotion, sponsored by Go Bowling, ended up with seven strikes thrown with gold headpins in place throughout the series on FS1. That means fans can get seven free games of bowling at participating centers, redeemable at GoBowling.com/FreeAmerica. Kris Prather ended the series as the reigning king. More: https://www.bowlersjournal.com/kris-prather-prevails-in-pba-king-of-the-lanes-series/.

* The Cyber Report has just learned that the venerable Little Nugget casino will be closing its doors at the end of the month, and that means the Nugget Diner — home of the Awful Awful Burger — also will be closing. The half-pound burger, served with a pound of fries, has been a Reno mainstay for seven decades… and a welcome indulgence after a stint on the lanes at the National Bowling Stadium. Not that we’re admitting we ever did it, but a great way to finish up an Awful Awful Burger-and-fries meal was with the Nugget Diner’s peach cobbler. The Little Nugget is a short walk from the NBS and the three big hotels on Virginia Street that collectively are known as The Row. For the uninitiated, the Awful Awful Burger was so named because it is “awful big and awful good.” Now, both locals and regular visitors to Reno feel awful that it will be disappearing.

* The Saudi Entertainment and Amusement (SEA) expo normally takes place in February, as it did this year, just before the world began shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Event organizers this week announced that the SEA expo will be held in 2021, but that its dates have been pushed back to May 24-26 to “allow time for Saudi Arabia’s buyer-market to recover,” and so “we can deliver a safe experience and provide real value for our customers.” More: https://www.saudientertainmentexpo.com.

* In recent days, longtime play-by-play man Dave Ryan once again has been calling the strikes and spares alongside color analyst Randy Pedersen and sideline reporter Kimberly Pressler on a series of special events the PBA has aired on FOX Sports. The circumstances of those shows once again are a reminder of the unusual moment we all are living through. Quirky formats designed to appeal to a TV audience hungry for sports, any sports, at a time when the pandemic has decimated the live sports landscape. Telecasts conducted in the complete absence of a live audience. On the latest edition of The Bowlers Journal Podcast, Ryan talks about what it has been like for him to call sporting events in the absence of a live audience, and how he and his colleagues throughout the sports media landscape have been managing the stress brought on by the professional challenges COVID-19 has presented them. Listen to the conversation here: https://soundcloud.com/user-658733792/podcast-dave-ryan-on-the-unusual-challenges-the-pandemic-presents-sports-broadcasters.

* As Phantom Radio’s second Trivia Contest nears the finish line, the guest on this week’s program is Rob Allen. To hear how he does and test your own knowledge, go to: https://kegel.squarespace.com/phantomblog/2020/7/21/rob-allen-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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