Bowling Center Owners Planning Demonstration in Lansing

Bowling Center Owners Planning Demonstration in Lansing

(Drew Saunders, Aug. 4, 2020)

Lansing, MI –  As some businesses are able to open, and others are not, bowling alley owners are getting restless as they struggle with no income coming in.  That’s why they’re planning a demonstration at the state capitol, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12 from 11am-3pm.

“We’re at the point where we’re going to lose half of our businesses,” Saginaw resident and bowling rally organizer Bo Goergen told the Oakland County Times.

The public health struggle against the Coronavirus is dominating global public discourse right now, but the economic consequences of the pandemic are also a part of the story. With the United States far exceeding all other countries in the number of cases, Michigan became one of the first states to enter a partial lock-down, while other states shut down later, opened earlier and are now having to shut down again because of spikes in cases.

This is not a protest, Goergen and the other bowling center owners interviewed for this article emphasize. It is simply an event to highlight just how precarious the plight is for this sport, and to call for change. No one interviewed for this article had a specific list of demands or requests for Governor Whitmer; other than a general need to reopen statewide.

Bowling alleys have been allowed to open in parts of northern Michigan.  But this opening, and the fact that state governments elsewhere in the country are allowing bowling centers to open, is just adding to the frustration of owners in southern Michigan, who have to remain closed because they are categorized as being in the same danger category as gyms and movie theaters.

James Selke, the owner of Classic Lanes in Rochester Hills said he plans on attending the protest because time is running out for the bowling season to get started. The two peak times for bowling centers are from Labor Day to the spring from bowling leagues, and two weeks over the holidays.

“You get two months’ worth of business in two weeks,” over the holidays, Selke said.

That business over the winter holidays may be months away, but it is critical.

Selke added that the booking for those seasons needs to start soon, otherwise bowling businesses would suffer the loss of the majority of their incomes. Selke added “If you took Black Friday away from everyday retail … they’d lose half of their sales. … It’s the same for us. If we don’t get our leagues going in September, and we don’t have the opportunity to market ourselves for corporate events for Christmas time, regardless of when we open, we’re going to starve because we [will] have lost our main customers for the year.”

But the rally-goers aren’t convinced that the data is there that bowling is as dangerous as it is being categorized and say that the sport can be brought back safely. Other states have allowed bowling centers to return at reduced capacity and rally organizers say they are willing and able to sanitize their facility before and after each player uses their lanes.

Federal, state, county and municipal governments have all come out with various public grant programs to help small businesses survive during the pandemic. But not all businesses qualify and even for Jason Papa – the owner of Madison Park Bowl, Oak Lanes in Westland and the Summit Entertainment Center in Washington Township – who have qualified for some loans, they say it is a band-aid to the situation.

“At this point in time it is enough,” Papa said. “But if this goes on much longer, it isn’t going to be.”

Leddy Robert, a spokesman for Governor Whitmer’s office, said that Governor Whitmer is “continuing to monitor cases and make decisions based on the best data and science. As she has said all along, she will adjust as necessary when it comes to reengaging Michigan’s economy safely.”

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