On Wednesday afternoon, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all bowling alleys in the state would have to close their doors by 8 p.m. Thursday in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey joined in the closures, which will also affect shopping malls and amusement parks.
Greg Joseph, owner of the Valley Bowling Center in Waverly, decided to close earlier this week after the Centers for Disease Control recommended against holding events with more than 50 people.
“There were a couple of things that were confusing at the time,” Joseph said. “Bars and restaurants were supposed to be closed and could only do take out. In a bowling center like mine, a bar or restaurant is pivotal to doing well with revenue.”
The Valley Bowling Center also hosts 24 leagues, so Joseph had to clear the closure with all of the league officers.
“I agreed with each of the leagues to postpone them for two weeks, and they would pick back up again in … what we hope is April. Right now it doesn’t look good,” Joseph said. “With no leagues here, it’s not conducive for me to stay open anyway, to bring in payroll with what might potentially be open (non-league) bowling business.”
According to Joseph, including staff in the group of 50 would only allow for about 10 of the 32 lanes at the bowling center.
“After the leagues made a decision to all postpone for two weeks … To me, it was conducive just to shut down and try to keep the safety of my customers and staff,” he said. “This could be a big feeding ground for coronavirus if anybody had it.”
“This is a big building with a lot of things to touch. I kind of looked at it from the health and safety standard — and that it wouldn’t be advantageous for me to stay open — to try and take a proactive stand on closing.”
The closure of the Valley Bowling Center due to COVID-19 came right at the end of the busiest time of year. Joseph said most open bowling traffic comes in between December and April, before the weather gets warm again.
“I was extremely busy,” he said. “This is an absolute disaster for us … I’m going to lose all the open play I would have gotten, and I will not get it back.”
Joseph added that he and a group of other bowling proprietors are working with the government to seek available relief for affected businesses.