Bowling is one of the recreational activities allowed under Phase II of Connecticut’s reopening plan. Most area alleys have opened back up and a few are close to opening.
In Plainville, Lessard Lanes has made adjustments to make bowlers feel safe.
Owner Marcel Lessard started with a soft opening plan June 17, the first day of Phase II. The soft opening was just for league bowlers. All other bowlers were welcomed back on July 1.
“It’s been slow,” Lessard said. “Bowling in general is down. But that allows us time to prepare for leagues in the fall All of our camps, fundraiser's and anything with large groups has been canceled because of the pandemic.”
Leagues have been the mainstay at Lessard since reopening. The league reaches full capacity of 50 bowlers each of the three “League Nights” per week.
“Bowling is tremendously different than it used to be,” Lessard said. “We have half the people. There are no high-fives, no blaring music and the competition is down in the leagues.”
Masks are mandatory and can only be lowered to take a drink or eat. The temperature of bowlers is taken when they come through the door. For “open bowling” people are urged to register online at lessardlanes.com.
“We took steps to make this as safe an environment as possible,” Lessard said. “We have sophisticated thermometers. There’s only one way in. We have barriers between groups of four lanes. We have sneeze guards and Plexiglas around the counters. We have additional hand sanitation stations that have been well received.”
Open bowlers used to be able to pick several bowling balls to use. Now employees consult with the bowlers to make sure they get the right ball. All balls and keypads are sanitized after use.
Lessard also invested in cold plasma generator technology for better air quality in the building.
There are special hours for seniors — 10 a.m to noon, Tuesday to Friday. Lessard said the sessions have been well attended.
“We’ve done everything that could be done and beyond to assure (the bowler’s) safety,” Lessard said. “We understand that people don’t want to go anywhere inside no matter what. It’s a decision they have to make. But if they want to have some fun. We are here.”
Cheshire’s Highland Bowl, owned by Todd Turcotte, opened on June 17.
The duckpin facility is at 50 percent capacity, which is 113 bowlers. Social distancing and face masks are a must on the concourse area.
Senor programs are on Wednesday and Thursday morning from 10 a.m to noon. Highland runs a night league on Wednesday’s with 24 bowlers spread across the lanes.
Turcotte said outside of his returning leagues, business has been slow.
“Customers are slow to come back and you use what’s left of you payroll protection to pay some staff to come back,” Turcotte said. “It’s not working. We are averaging one tenth of what we would do on a normal summer day. It’s a struggle. The rainy days aren’t helping us because people are afraid to go inside.”
Turcotte said Highland Bowl has added extra hand sanitizer stations, air filters and touchless technology.
The majority of the bowlers at Highland since the pandemic are seniors, including a few 90-year-olds. Turcotte said 75 percent of his current customer base are senior citizens.
“I’ve made it so they feel safe coming here and that’s the most important thing,” Turcotte said. “The two 90-year-olds come in every week and say we did such a great job keeping it clean. They feel good about it. We are getting an occasional family in here. But dollars and sense wise we are here all day and doing 60 bucks. It’s tough. The customers that come in do feel safe.”
Lanes can be booked and paid for online or you can walk in and get set up. Bowling shoes are sanitized between uses. Bowlers don’t have to wear a mask when they are physically playing their game.
“Come September when the leagues come in and maybe people aren’t as scared we will survive,” Turcotte said. “We have to make it through another three or four weeks and then we will know where we will stand.”
Berlin’s Lucky Lanes and Southington’s Apple Valley Bowl will open this week, according to their web sites.
“Lucky Lanes will be closed until the week of August 3rd, 2020 as we clean and prepare our center for the 2020 fall season,” the website states. “We look forward to your future business and we hope all of you stay safe and healthy throughout the weeks ahead. Please visit our Facebook page for updates and information.”
Also in Southington, the lanes at Crystal Bees on Queen Street are open.
Wallingford Bowl is now open. Make reservations at bowlero.com.
“This center is now open on a modified schedule,” according to the Wallingford Bowl website. “Your health and safety are important to us, which is why we’re working with professional industrial hygienists to ensure that our center is clean, sanitized and maintained on a regular basis.”
The Wallingford alley assures their guest that the balls and shoes are being thoroughly sanitized and guests will be provided with disinfectant wipes and/or spray, as needed.
All arcade games and kiosks will be thoroughly cleaned, paying special attention to joysticks, buttons, prize slots and card readers.
Hand sanitizer will be available. All staff will have their temperature checked prior to beginning their shift. All staff will wear face masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. Food handlers will also wear gloves.
There’s a limit of 4 to 6 people per lane and no ball sharing between guests. Furniture has been removed to create more space for social distancing. Laser tag is closed until further notice.