Governor Cuomo, Bowling is a League of Their Own

by Anthony Figliola

As a father of three small and very active children, the last four months has been an adventure to say the least.  From homeschooling to working from home, like many families, we had to adjust.

A big issue we confronted was limited activities.  One we sorely missed was bowling, because instead of sitting on the couch it allowed our entire family to play a game and enjoy quality time with one another.  As we approached Phase Four, we were excited for a chance to get back on the lanes for some socially distant fun.  Alas, that was not to be.

The state has miscategorized bowling with other industries completely unrelated in Phase Four, which have different business models and associated risks.

The shutdown of bowling and many other businesses began at 8 p.m. on March 19, 2020 with Executive Order 202.5 and has never ended.  As with most New Yorkers, we all wanted to do our part to “Flatten the Curve” and that meant a statewide shutdown of most of our economy.

Fast forward to July 2020, the state is in Phase Four and New York has remained at historically low infection rates.  However, bowling and several other unrelated businesses have been excluded from reopening. Each Business placed in Phase Four needs to be assessed for its own risk and not unfairly viewed under an umbrella.  For example, after a hard push from county executives who have been hit with anemic sales tax revenue the state allowed indoor malls to reopen.  That left a swath of other unrelated businesses out in the cold, including bowling.  While some have taken legal action, others such as New York’s 300 bowling center operators have sought to work and cooperate with the state.

In consultation with national experts, New York centers have developed a comprehensive plan for reopening that follows all CDC and State Department of Health safety guidelines and regulations. This proposal was submitted to Governor Cuomo in May well ahead of Phase Four. This includes the issues surrounding shoe and ball rental.  It’s important to note that many players are league bowlers (seniors and essential workers: police, firemen, doctors and nurses) have their own balls and shoes.

Bowling Centers by design are perfect for the new social distancing protocols as there is 1,000 square feet between lanes. That is why centers around the country have reopened without incident.  Our Multi-State Council partners in New Jersey and Connecticut have reopened bowling, and there has been no known spike in infection rates as a result.  As of now, bowlers in New York are traveling to those states to play.

I have worked with hundreds of businesses during this pandemic and have been hard pressed to find one in this state who does not appreciate the current health and economic crisis we are facing.  Though at this point if you drive around town you will notice the state is back up and running.  However, there are more than 9,000 bowling employees out of work, and who have joined the more than 1.5 million New Yorkers on unemployment.

Most centers are not run by a corporate CEO and they have limited political ties.  They are small business owners who have raised millions for noble causes such as college scholarships and veteran organizations including the Albany-Stratton VA, as well as downstate’s Long Island State Veterans Home, Northport and St. Albans VA hospitals.

These small business owners are in a big cash crunch with loans and vendor bills to pay.  Many banks have assisted these businesses with forbearance programs through this crisis but these loans need to be repaid and the bill is coming due.  A majority of the 300 center owners are facing a grim reality that absent the state reopening the industry their livelihood will be gone forever.

As taxpaying Americans, they deserve the opportunity to reopen in a safe and law-abiding manner.

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