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August 26, 2020 - 11:59am

Leagues can use two lanes with 'appropriate barriers'; bowlers upset over face coverings rule

posted by Mike Pettinella in sports, Bowling, Gov. Cuomo, bowling centers.

League bowlers who have been objecting to the one-lane rule received some good news on Tuesday, but the same can’t be said for those who are protesting having to wear a face covering while delivering the ball.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office ruled that leagues can be conducted as normal – switching each frame between two lanes over the course of a game – as long as “appropriate physical barriers” are put up between lanes.

Bowling proprietors throughout the state have been buying plastic sheeting, shower curtains and plexiglass, and are in the process of using those materials to separate bowlers in the seating area and at the ball return.

According to an email blast from the New York State Bowling Proprietors Association, the latest guidelines include the answer to two questions:

Q. Leagues typically use a pair of lanes when they are bowling. Is it permissible for teams to swap lanes (team bowls on the left lane, next time they bowl on the right lane) with the barrier still in place between the lanes and they stay seated on one side at all times?

A. Yes, if they don’t interact and otherwise maintain social distancing when switching.

Q. With regards to the number of players to any event (other than a regular league) at the facility being restricted to 50 or fewer, can that group bowl on consecutive lanes without barriers? For example, if a family of 10 comes in to bowl together they would normally bowl on two lanes next to each other. Do they need to have a barrier between their lanes even though they are together? This would be similar to a family out dining together.

A. No barrier needed here if part of the same group.

While league members will be pleased to know that two lanes can be used during competition, the rule stating that face coverings must be worn at all times for patrons/players is “the biggest issue” right now, said Mike Sputore, manager of Mancuso Bowling Center in Batavia.

Sputore said the reaction at league meetings this week has been decidedly against the directive that masks have to be worn while actually rolling the ball.

“Our numbers are going to be way down if this isn’t changed, but I am optimistic that it will be,” Sputore said, noting that the number of bowlers in a few leagues that have met thus far has declined as much as 50 percent from last season. “The mask rule should be the same as with the restaurant – when you’re seated a table you can remove your mask. If a bowler is social distanced on the lane, why does he or she need to wear the mask then?”

He also said people are concerned about being able to breathe properly and those with glasses have problems with their glasses fogging up while wearing a face covering.

Other guidelines still in place for bowling are as follows:

  • Restrict facility capacity to no more than 50 percent of the maximum occupancy for a particular area as set by the certificate of occupancy, inclusive of employees and patrons/players;
  • Strictly enforce social distancing of at least six feet between parties of patrons/players, including during play by closing adjacent bowling lanes or enacting appropriate physical barriers between lanes;
  •  Ensure patrons/players interact only with their party at their assigned lane (i.e., no comingling of parties);
  • Rigorously clean and disinfect any rented or shared equipment (e.g., bowling balls, bowling shoes) between each patron’s/player’s or party’s use;
  • Limit 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 4 regions, as of Aug. 15, 2020); and Adhere to the Department of Health's “Interim Guidance for Food Services during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” and all other applicable state-issued guidance (e.g., State Liquor Authority) for food and beverage service on the premise of the facility; provided, however, that indoor food and beverage service remains prohibited in New York City until further notice, as of Aug. 15, 2020.

Further, responsible parties of bowling centers and alleys may consider these additional public health and safety measures:

  • Encourage patron/player visits be made in advance by reservation only, where practicable;
  • Consider measures to reduce interpersonal contact and congregation, such as: “blocking off” operating times to allow for enhanced cleaning and disinfection; implementing “sign-up” policies, so patrons/players only play during their allotted time; and/or offering “equipment valets” where employees retrieve equipment for patrons/players (e.g., employees retrieve bowling balls from rack for use);
  • Post signage and issue audio reminders for patrons/players to clean and disinfect equipment before and after use;
  • Impose reasonable limits on rentals of facility owned equipment (e.g., a single individual may only use one bowling ball for the duration of the patron’s/player’s play); and/or
  • Encourage patrons/players to bring and use their own equipment (e.g., bowling balls).

Also, billiards are not allowed to be open at this time.

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