Amid confusion, public health director responds to questions about bowling league guidelines
Bowling center proprietors and managers are reaching out to state and local bowling association representatives and to the New York State Bowling Proprietors Association to find out what they can and cannot do when it comes to running their leagues for the 2020-21 season.
Normally, fall leagues begin just before or right after Labor Day, which is on Sept. 7th this year.
Last Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that bowling centers would be able to reopen on Aug. 17, ending a five-month shutdown of the state’s nearly 300 bowling establishments as New York dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor’s press release listed the following safety protocols for bowling centers:
- Operating at 50-percent maximum occupancy limit;
- Face coverings and social distancing will be required at all times;
- Every other lane must be closed;
- Patrons need to stay with the party at their assigned lane;
- Thorough cleaning and disinfection of shared or rented equipment between each use;
- All food service must follow all state-issued guidance.
Furthermore, in New York City, due to restrictions on indoor dining, food and beverage service will not be allowed in New York City bowling centers.
Still, those who operate these facilities have expressed a degree of confusion, seeking more specifics. They also have varying ideas of how they believe (to some extent, wishful thinking) things should proceed.
Proprietors and managers -- judging by initial conversations with league secretaries -- are anticipating a drop off in membership as a result of one-lane only and face covering mandates.
In an effort to answer their questions, The Batavian reached out to Paul Pettit, Genesee/Orleans public health director, with the following:
Q. Can a team in a league, let’s say of four members, bowl on a pair of lanes (as is normally the case) – having just one bowler on the approach at a time – and have the pair of lanes next to them dark? For example, one team on lanes 1-2, lanes 3-4 dark, another team on lanes 5-6, lanes 7-8 dark, another team on lanes 9-10, and so forth? This still meets the 50-percent occupancy requirement.
A. On Aug. 14, the Governor’s office published a press release outlining the stipulations for bowling alleys to safely reopen (see above). An interim guidance has yet to be released by the State. Based on the press release, every other lane must be closed.
Q. Do masks have to be worn on the approach, or can a bowler remove the mask as he or she steps onto the lane, and then put the mask back on when stepping off the approach?
A. Face masks must be work at all times.
Q. How is the 50-percent capacity determined?
A. The 50-percent capacity would be based on the establishments building occupancy (not by multiplying the number of lanes by a specific number).
Q. Is there a chance these restrictions could be eased?
A. These restrictions are set forth by the state. Locally, we do not have the jurisdiction to alter or lessen the state requirements. If the restrictions are lifted or lessened, the state would be in charge of making that formal announcement.
Q. What else can you share at this time?
A. Again, we are waiting for the state to deliver the formal guidance for bowling alleys. This is not the first time the state has allowed a business to reopen with little to no guidance.
Facilities should monitor the New York Forward website for specific guidelines when they are released. Facilities can also email specific questions to the Finger Lakes Regional Control Room at: [email protected]. We appreciate the patience of the community as we wait for the state to release the guidance.
Doug Bohannon of Glens Falls, president of the New York State Bowling Proprietors Association, provided information about what is considered a “group or event”:
“We are allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity. The part in the guidance about ‘limiting the number of patrons/players to any event at the facility to no more than the current social gathering restrictions that are in effect for the region as a part of the State's phased reopening (i.e., 50 or fewer people in Phase Four 4 regions, as of Aug. 15, 2020)’ is confusing but I have obtained clarification from Albany which states that a league is not a group or event.
“This part of the guidance refers to, for example, a church group or a summer camp that wants to book an outing to your center. If that type of group wants to book an outing, then they are limited to 50 people.”