May 20, 2020
The Hon. Gina M. Raimondo
R.I. Office of the Governor
82 Smith St.
Providence, R.I. 02903
Dear Gov. Raimondo,
We hope you find this letter well. We are a group of owners and managers of multiple local bowling centers here in Rhode Island and we are reaching out to you for assistance in helping us safely reopen our doors as soon as possible.
Like many businesses and organizations in Rhode Island, and the state as a whole, our bowling centers have been severely impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Along with losing significant revenue that is normally generated through the winter months, we had to place all of our employees on furlough when the shutdown was ordered in March - and those approximately 400 employees are still on furlough, some struggling to pay bills and put food on the table.
Similar to hair salons and workout gyms, bowling centers are unique in that we cannot modify operations in order to continue business - like how restaurants can implement curb-side pickup or takeout in lieu of table service - if we are ordered closed due to the pandemic. If the centers are closed, there's no bowling. If there's no bowling, there's no business.
Plus, not all of us collectively were able to receive much-needed assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program despite all of us applying for it to help us get through the crisis, adding more harm to an already painful situation.
We are excited to see that the state began last weekend to take its first steps in restarting the economy, including recently announcing that state parks some beaches will reopen, as well as places of worship with restrictions, by the end of this month. We share your sentiment you have noted throughout this crisis, which is you hope for businesses here in Rhode Island to be back in operation as quickly, and as safely, as possible. Along with seeing with pride bowlers both novice and experienced enjoying themselves on the lanes for a couple of hours in our facilities, we absolutely value that they have a great experience with us in a safe and healthy environment. Plus, we also want to bring employees back to work, a point that you also have made regularly throughout the crisis, as well.
Therefore, we collectively, and kindly, ask you to allow our centers to reopen within the Phase 2 portion of the state's reopening plan. We will work with both you and local and state health officials to make sure that all proper health and safety guidelines are met for our centers to reopen to the public.
Among the protocols we plan to implement once we reopen are putting spaces in between lanes to allow for social distancing; regularly sanitizing bowling balls, bowling shoes and tables after every use; placing directions on the floor to create orderly traffic inside the centers; and other initiatives to create a safe environment for our bowlers. Bowling centers in other states, such as Georgia, South Dakota and Tennessee, have implemented these measures as they reopened.
The United States Bowling Congress, which is the governing body for the sport of bowling, recently modified some of its playing rules for league play in order to allow social distancing and other means to meet health guidelines. We intend to follow those guidelines for our leagues once we reopen.
In March, prior to the shutdown, we had already established multiple measures in our centers to ensure the safety and health of our bowlers while they are enjoying the game, including setting up cleaning stations on each of the lanes and increased sanitation measures in order to minimize any potential virus spread. We were ahead of the curve while doing our part to aid in the efforts of flattening the curve.
While we wholeheartedly understand and agree that a slow reopening of the economy is necessary in order to avoid a major virus spike in Rhode Island, and that public health is extremely important, we are collectively concerned of the damage to our economic health that our centers have endured due to the shutdown. Before the pandemic, bowling participation - both recreationally and in league play - has been decreasing locally and it already had sustained a hard hit because of the Great Recession from a decade ago.
The need to stop the spread of coronavirus, while absolutely vital, may have an unintended consequence in terms of our centers reopening. We have a very real collective fear that if our centers are closed for a prolonged period of time, even well after some other businesses restarted their respective operations, that we may never be able to reopen.
Centers such as Lincoln Lanes, Aquidneck Lanes in Middletown and, most recently, the Bowling Academy in East Providence have all shuddered within the last three decades, and those closures occurred when the community was not hampered by a worldwide health crisis. We worry that, after being in operation for at least 60 years, we may join those three closed centers if we are unable to reopen soon and that the bowling community in Rhode Island may become extinct as a result of this pandemic. We've had multiple generations of families walk through our doors and roll strikes - and spares - over the years, and we hope for that to continue. To lose that permanently will be a terrible detriment to this state.
In closing, we certainly appreciate and thank you for your leadership through this very difficult period, and we absolutely hope you can assist us in getting us back in operation as we are willing to work with you on this matter. Having bowlers of all skill levels enjoying themselves in our centers in a safe and healthy environment, and also helping to restart the economy here is a win-win for the state of Rhode Island. Plus, it will give residents here a much-needed sense of normalcy after experiencing multiple abnormal months this spring.
We certainly look forward to speaking with you and working with you soon on this matter. Please reach out to us and we together can help get Rhode Island's economy back in the fast lane.
East Providence Lanes
East Providence, R.I.
Rhode Island U.S. Bowling Congress
Owner and operator
Old Mountain Lanes and Walnut Hill Bowl
Wakefield and Woonsocket, R.I.
Carl DaRosa Sr.
Kevin Heise Jr.
North Kingstown, R.I.
Alley Katz Bowling Center
Old Mountain Lanes