Last Friday, Spin Alley Bowling in Shoreline witnessed a frenzy resembling pre-COVID days. The bowlers occupied its 16 lanes with great enthusiasm. They had gone back to the pre-pandemic days. The bowling lanes became filled with laughter, the sounds of knocking down pins after long. Truly, it was a sight to behold. Even the masks on the faces could not hide the palpable energy.
Like every sector, the last year was a mundane period for the bowling alleys in Washington. They reopened on 1st February 2021, abiding by the guidelines shared by Governor Jay Inslee. The bowling centers are allowing 25% occupancy in phase 2 and following all the regulations related to social distancing and sanitizing equipment. Additionally, the bowling centers need to follow the restaurant guidelines if they are serving food and alcohol.
Cautious and Consistent
The owners of bowling alleys are not complaining about the drop in clientele. They are just happy to see the bowlers back in the lanes. It’s like cherishing a slice of pre-COVID fun cautiously in these trying times. Spin Alley’s Joe Montero says that he has lost a huge amount of money like the other owners and operators across the state or country. “It’s been tough for everybody,” he said. But he reassured that they are going to come out of the situation like true fighters.
The same spirit echoed in the words of Gregory Olsen, the executive director of the Washington State Bowling Proprietors Association. He said that there is always mounting pressure on the bowling area owners and operators. He Represents 65 bowling centers in the state, including 8 in the greater Seattle area. He expressed his agony, saying that real estate is expensive for the owners and operators.
The bowling alley owners and operators have not increased the charges per game post-COVID. The restrictions on restaurants, bars, arcade games, and gatherings, in general, have further made them worry more. Olsen said, “And then we’re hoping, of course, that you and your friends may order an adult beverage or you order some food, French fries and a soft drink, so it’s no different than going to a movie.” He further added that the owners and operators are trying to generate revenue from ancillary items. If the services were restricted to only bowling, those would have cost more.
Overcoming the Hurdles
Despite the best of measures, there is one factor which is bothering the operators and clients. It’s a problem of sharing balls and shoes. Most of the visitors rent shoes and use alley balls. But, this is not acceptable under current circumstances. However, a new process has been introduced to sanitize all the equipment. The process involves two cleanings of finger holes between uses with a special brush.
So, all the owners and operators are taking that extra step in ensuring the alleys are really safe. They are confident that intense sanitization will reduce the chance of viral transmission. Speaking about the risk factors associated with bowling alleys, Dr. Angie Sparks, a Kaiser Permanente family physician, said, “I can’t cite any scientific knowledge about the surfaces of bowling balls and how the coronavirus interacts with them. I’m sure somebody is studying that. But for most surfaces, if it’s being disinfected after every use … you should be good.”
Looking Forward to Phase 3
Spin Alley’s Joe Montero shared his concern that the phase 2 limit of 25% occupancy is too stiff to yield any profit. But, he is hoping that the state will move to phase 3 in late spring or summer and allow 50% occupancy. And when it happens, it will be a “game changer” for all the operators and owners of bowling alleys.