Bowling centers await governor's OK to reopen

Closure affecting not only fall leagues, but summer programs

Tom Puckett
July 30, 2020 - 4:00 am

    Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Bowling centers are among those businesses awaiting a reopening phase after Governor Cuomo ordered phase four, but kept places like bowling centers and gyms from reopening. Center owners say their finances are in gutter when they should be ready to strike it rich.

    "It's frustrating not only from a business standpoint, but we employ 66 people. So they're waiting to get back to work. This is how they support their family, pay their bills, and we have no work for them because we can't be open and be operational," says Donna Perna, general manager of Transit Lanes in Williamsville. She says Keglers, the restaurant at Transit Lanes, has not been able to be open, even for takeout. "Initially, we were not set up for takeout, so that would be item number one. But, item number two, which is more significant, is the way Keglers is configured from a structural standpoint. You can enter from the outside or the double doors, but if you enter from the outside, you still have access to the bowling center, and the bowling center is shut down," explains Perna. "We couldn't do indoor dining and takeout was something we weren't prepared for."

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    Perna says she based a reopening plan from Cuomo's website on how to stay in compliance. "We put together a reopening plan, and a risk assessment plan, which is how will we handle our customers and staff. We want to keep our customers staff. Once we reopen, everything will be sanitized, our staff will wear masks, and we will be in 100 percent compliance," says Perna.

    Perna says she's fielding 10 to 15 calls per day about league bowling, and when they can come back. She's also checking in with league bowlers. "We're asking our bowlers, especially senior bowlers, what do you want from us, so we can make sure they are safe and comfortable, and we are in compliance," notes Perna.

    Summer activities like welcoming day care centers to learn how to bowl and a Buffalo Zoo fundraiser has also been canceled. 

    Leagues at Manor Lanes in Tonawanda have also been canceled since March. Since then, Brian Russo says he's been trying to get his facility ready for when Cuomo allows bowling centers to reopen. "We incurred very high costs to get sanitizers, sanitizing stations, we went so far as to get merv 13 filters for our air conditioners. I've even put up an 8 foot piece of plexiglass between each pair of lanes to lessen the risk of anyone spreading anything," says Russo.

    Russo says he still hasn't received any guidance on when opening will be allowed, and league bowlers are just as frustrated. "This time of year is when we're calling our league officers to ramp up for the fall season, and they're calling us concerned about what's going on, and I don't have any answers for them because I'm in the same boat," says Russo.

    Russo says he tried takeout for two weeks before closing that down. Today, he will resume food service with patio dining on the sand volleyball courts. "We run outdoor sand volleyball because that's what gets us through the summer months, because in Buffalo, you're indoors all winter, come summer, the bowling dies out a little," says Russo. "We rely on our sand volleyball and we're not allowed to have it because it's a high risk sport. Yet, you're playing softball, baseball, soccer, which is more high risk in my opinion, and the only explanation I'm getting is it's shared equipment. Because they're using the same volleyball, but that doesn't have the same logic because you're touching the same soccer ball, baseball, and softball. It's frustrating because the governor is not consistent in what he's letting open up and what he's keeping closed."

    Russo's been sending letters to Cuomo, and he's also working with other bowling centers to give customers pins to send to the governor. "We're asking them to write a little message, please reopen bowling or tell us why you're not allowing us to reopen," notes Russo.

     

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