How Bowling Alleys Are Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic


When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March, countries enforced a lockdown in an attempt to stop the spread of the highly contagious and deadly virus. Businesses had no choice but to shutter their doors as customers remained at home.

Now, things are slowly going back to normal. Restrictions have been lifted in many places, which allow businesses of all kinds to reopen and are ready to welcome customers back.

However, as infections cross 7 million in the United States, many are still apprehensive about going out.

As a result, businesses, although open, remain empty. Across most industries, businesses are struggling to survive the pandemic. Indoor venues, including bowling alleys, are some of the businesses that are the hardest hit.

Is It Safe to Go Bowling?

Indoor venues are struggling because, with mounting evidence that suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, experts warn that the risk of transmission is higher. Aerosols can travel much farther than the recommended 6-feet when inside restaurants and stores, especially if there is no adequate ventilation. It is safer outdoors where droplets are immediately dispersed as soon as they are ejected and less likely to be inhaled.

Using a residential bowling alley is far better than going out. There is no risk of infection if the player is alone or with family members and there is no sharing of equipment involved.

However, to those who are not lucky enough to have bowling alleys at home, here is a piece of good news. It might be safer to go into a bowling alley than arcades, pool halls, and bars.

A bowling alley is far more spacious than other indoor venues. It is possible to keep a healthy distance away from other people. If the venue is well-ventilated and the number of people inside is limited, the chances of catching the virus are slim.

Ensuring Customer Safety in Bowling Alleys

However, it is still necessary that patrons, who want to go back to bowling alleys, ask how washrooms are being maintained to decrease the risk of infection, how the staff are handling the food, and whether the equipment is being adequately sanitized between use.

The shared bowling ball is a particular cause for concern. In 2014, bowling alleys became a topic of conversation. A doctor, who was treating patients diagnosed with Ebola, visited a bowling alley before he knew he was sick himself.

Experts recommend that customers bring wipes and alcohol-based sanitizers to the bowling alley to wipe down surfaces and objects before use. The virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours, according to studies.

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Barely Surviving

Bowling as a sport has been declining for decades, but as a recreational sport, it was as popular as ever. At least, that was the situation before the pandemic.

In May, Josh Hodney, executive director at the Bowling Proprietors Association of Minnesota, said that, out of the around 183 bowling alleys across the state, most were thriving despite the public health and economic crisis. Not everyone’s situation is good. Some are scared of going under. Some are holding up but eagerly wait for the pandemic to be over and things to go back to normal.

He expects to see a few bowling alleys to never reopen their doors to customers.

Turning to Food to Survive

When the infections started to rise earlier this year, bowling alleys were forced to shut down. For several months, lanes were left unused. Most venues, however, survived by selling food.

Patrons missed not just bowling but the food served in these venues, too.

Venues that also served food saw an increase in lunch business while bowling was shut down. During the time, venues had no choice but to shift their focus toward providing food. For a while, most places became a 100% restaurant that offered delivery, drive-through, pickup, and, eventually, dine-in food.

The lockdown was particularly challenging for bowling alleys. It happened in spring and lasted throughout summer when these venues are usually packed and in high demand. Bowling alleys are seasonal businesses with about eight to nine months to generate revenue out of the entire year.

Bouncing Back Will Be Slow

Bowling, in most places, has been once again permitted. Venues are reopening lanes and welcoming customers. While many people have expressed excitement and enthusiasm, some still live in fear. It is going to take a long time before everyone can go bowling whenever they want to.

Some risks come with every activity but, by abiding by the rules set by public health experts, customers can minimize the risk of catching COVIC-19. Even in a bowling alley, the safety guidelines should be followed at all times.

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