By Joe D’Amodio | email@example.com
Staten Island Advance | silive.com | Click Here for the Full Story
Rab’s Country Lanes proprietor Frank Wilkinson figured his Dongan Hills center would have been fully operational by now, 4 1/2 months after businesses across the state were ordered closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A few days into Phase 4 of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening plans, the center, along with Showplace Entertainment Center — the Island’s only other bowling house — remain closed. The only activity at Country is sound coming from the reopened pro shop, some maintenance workers and an hour-long bowling show Wilkinson and Country manager Nazareth Laursen conduct five days a week.
“Sadly, we do not have any guidance or understanding on when we will get to re-open,” said Wilkinson, who has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the shutdown. “All we know at this point is that we are closed, as Cuomo has said, ‘indefinitely.’ There is no date for us to re-open.
According to Wilkinson, bowling centers were identified in Phase 4 of the Governor’s reopening plans. However, bowling centers have been identified as “high-risk indoor amusement” along with theaters, movie theaters and malls and Phase 4 has been split. “Low-risk” entertainments got the go to open in the beginning of Phase 4, similar to indoor dining being halted indefinitely.
“This has been a very difficult time for us both mentally and financially,” said Wilkinson. “We’re firm believers in the actions taken to get us to this point where we have flattened the curve and have slowed the spread of COVID-19. Without the slow roll-outs, we would already be seeing a ‘second wave.’ We’re now at a point, where we need to continue working together to continue stopping the spread while getting back to every day life, safely.
“Keeping a 40,000+ square foot building closed, while still keeping it running has been the largest challenge. While we have decreased many of our bills during this time, our incredibly high overhead costs have not changed. We along with many other local businesses, find ourselves in a very tough financial position, as loans have been the only way to help businesses get through this time and for the most part, these loans have not been enough.”
Wilkinson is hopeful his bowling center and others in the state will be able to open in August.
Bowling alleys have already opened in New Jersey with bowlers wearing masks.
When asked what kind of COVID-guidelines will be in place when Country is allowed to open, Wilkinson said, “In addition to having zero guidelines from the state on the potential re-opening dates, the re-opening plans that have been created for each phase do not include our industry.”
But Wilkinson said he believes the following to be true based on the information available to him from other phase openings:
- Upon initial opening, some sort of capacity restriction.
- Masks will be required to be worn by all.
- No different than other public facilities, a mask will be required when you cannot social distance, and not required when you are doing the physical activity. So when you get up to bowl (physical activity) a mask may not be required, and will be necessary when you enter the common area.
- Employee health checks to be part of regular standard operating procedures.
- Facilities must have proper signage to encourage physical distancing in common areas.
- Educational signage throughout the facilities about wearing masks, washing hands, etc.
- HVAC system upgrades to eliminate the spread of the virus.
Wilkinson said he has taken the following additional steps:
- Educating our team about COVID-19.
- Developed several potential plans for moving forward with our business depending on the capacity restrictions, this includes the possibility of keeping lanes between guests to achieve maximum physical distancing.
- Installed touch-less door openers on doors that pull open inside and outside the bowling center.
- Installed additional hand sanitizing stations, doubling what we already had installed throughout.
- Prepared proper signage throughout the facility, including digital signage.
- Ready to outfit staff and customers with masks (should customer not have one).
- Continuation of sanitizing equipment (shoes and bowling balls) after every use, and thoroughly cleaning the areas after use and before the next customer enters.
- We’re now in the process of upgrading our HVAC systems to comply with the requirements we believe may be put into place for facilities our size.
In the end, Wilkinson can’t wait to reopen the center after what will be more than five months of being idle.
“Personally, I couldn’t be more excited to get our business back rolling,” said Wilkinson. “Now more than ever, our community needs what bowling centers provide, an outlet to escape everyday life for social and recreational needs. We have always prided ourselves on providing a clean and safe environment for everyone to enjoy.
“Bowling will be back stronger and safer than ever. We’re in this together, we need all our customers to come together to help keep a safe and clean facility. Bowling centers are the original social network, we want people to come and be social as they are, yet physical distancing will be encouraged.”
Wilkinson said Country’s patrons can help with getting the center reopened.
“While the decision of opening bowling centers and other ‘high-risk’ entertainment like ours is up to the governor’s office, it cannot hurt to make a push to get our facilities open,” he said. “The governor needs to hear from constituents! We believe that collectively, if we make enough noise, we will be noticed. Bowling centers throughout New York State are working together to tell our story so we are not continued to be left in the dark. Tell the story that our centers are safe and clean environments so people can get back to socializing amongst their favorite activity.
“Bowling centers are community centers in their communities. Rab’s, collectively with Gennaro’s and the Country Pro Shop, employs almost 100 people, not including our volunteers. We’re urging our customers to take a brief moment to write the Governors office: https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form.”