Friday, April 24, was the day Georgia began lifting restrictions on businesses, allowing places like bowling centers and arcades to open for the first time in weeks. Not all of them did.
The Georgia-based bowling entertainment center chain Stars and Strikes, with their 15 locations (10 in their home state), has opted to stay closed for now, in order to “assess everything that needs to change in our facilities,” co-founder Chris Albano told RePlay. He said they’re probably a couple more weeks from reopening.
This week, he and fellow co-founder Jack Canouse are setting up a training facility to get all of their Georgia location managers on the same page regarding social distancing protocols and other standards based on the federal government’s Phase One guidelines.
“We’re excited to get opened again, but it’s really important that we get it right,” Albano said. For “Phase One,” that’s going to mean employees will be required to wear masks. Bowling lanes will be open every other lane; bowling balls will be removed from public racks, sanitized after each customer and returned straight to the lane by an employee.
On the arcade side of things, anywhere there’s a line of games, only every other machine will be turned on. Stars and Strikes will also be ramping up cleaning and limiting the number of people in their arcades, which vary in size. While Albano said there’s been no specific directive on limiting overall facility capacity, it’s something the company is looking into.
To ensure guidelines are met, the BEC will also have new signage throughout the facility – starting at the front door – reminding customers of social distancing and other protocols. They’ll also be giving guests handouts to introduce them to the new guidelines. Stay up-to-date with their official announcements on social media, and via their website, www.starsandstrikes.com.
Southern Lanes of Douglasville, Ga., meanwhile, is back in business with about half the staff and new procedures like mandatory temperature checks and hand sanitizer use to get in the door. They got their first taste of post-shutdown bowling over the weekend, and it was as good as it could be given the circumstances.
“We did OK,” said Dusty Hicks, wife of owner Randy Hicks. “It’s not going to be like it was.” She told RePlay they’ve opened every other lane, instituted a five-person-per-lane maximum and pulled all 200 of their bowling balls from the floor for sanitization (they’re returned to the lanes by an employee before being turned over to new customers). Hicks also said they’ve instituted no-touch payments. The card system is run like credit, so there’s no need to type in a PIN number. Cash will still be accepted, when necessary.
For now, their arcade is closed while they figure out how to operate it while maintaining the government’s standards. “It’s a learning experience,” Hicks said. “We’re taking it day-to-day.” Learn more about them at www.southernlanesga.com.
Bowlero is also beginning to open its centers across the state. They’ve amped up their sanitization practices and put into place their own rules. There will be a limit of four to six people per lane, an empty lane will separate bowlers from other groups and there will be no ball sharing between guests.
Their arcade games are being moved and spaced out, where possible, to maintain social distancing practices, and some games may be inoperable during this time. The laser tag arenas they have will not be in operation until further notice. Bowlero will also be monitoring center capacity to ensure that only the appropriate number of guests are in the facility at one time. You can visit www.bowlero.com/COVID to get the full rundown of changes.
In a Facebook post from April 22, Portal Pinball Arcade in Kennesaw, Ga., said they thought “it’s a bit too early for us to open up as the infection rate and death rate is still climbing in Georgia.” They added: “We’ll stay on top of the situation and look forward to seeing all our customers soon. We want you to be safe and we want all of our staff to be safe.”
Atlanta’s Midtown Bowl shared on their website that they, too, are not opening up just yet. In a statement to customers, they wrote: “Before opening, we would require a secure supply chain – for food and personal protective equipment – to be in place to allow for the well-being and confidence of our guests and teammates.”
Floyd Bowling & Amusement Center in Rome, Ga., decided to open, according to its Facebook page. They’re operating at half capacity, adhering to social distancing guidelines, and taking other precautions. Bowling leagues there are also beginning to resume. Their game room, however, will remain closed until further notice.
Miracles Cosmic Bowling in Dalton, Ga., Calhoun Bowling Center in Calhoun, Ga., and AMF facilities around the state are among the many others that have also reopened.