Lawmakers call on state to allow bowling centers to reopen

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Three local bowling alley owners and four local members of the state Legislature called on the governor to let bowling reopen with pandemic safety guidelines in place. They met outside King Pin Lanes in Rome.

“They can open safely,” said Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome. “They need to open to be a viable business in the state,” he said of the bowling centers that are both small businesses and recreation opportunities locally. Bowling, he noted, is already a sport that must constantly put effort into drawing customers in a world full of recreational choices. “Any additional burdens or roadblocks would put them out of business.” He added later: “This industry is in peril,” and allowing them to open would preserve jobs and recreational opportunities. He acknowledged that the focus must remain on saving lives during the pandemic, but said these plans allow the businesses to run safely.

The request would cover other related entertainment venues such as billiard halls too.

Bowling alleys and related businesses were initially to reopen as part of the state’s phase four but were not included. There has been no indication of when they might be allowed to reopen.

Proposals from bowling alley owners, said Griffo, are “creative and fulfill the protocols.” Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, Marcy, said the plans cover customers and staff. “The plans are solid,” she said. She noted that bowling alleys are spacious and can accommodate social distancing requirements.

King Pin owner Craig Vogel said his plan — which Griffo said could serve as a model for reopening — includes such practices as spacing between bowlers by closing some lanes to make more space. Also, King Pin will add ventilation to bring in more fresh air, he said. He said the bar and restaurant will serve food with added safety protocols too.

Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-101, New Hartford, himself a COVID-19 survivor, urged the governor to review the “practical plan that can work.” He also urged bowlers to wear masks and practice social distancing if they’re allowed to go back to the lanes.

Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, Brookfield, said that not only are bowling alleys taxpaying businesses and employers of local residents, “It’s times like these when people are under such stress, recreation is even more important than ever.”

Vogel also asked the state to reclassify bowling as an essential sport instead of non-essential.

“We are the fabric of this town.”

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