Bowling alleys across the state were given the go-ahead to open back up Wednesday, Sept. 9, after a long stretch of being closed due to COVID-19. During the prolonged shutdown, many owners scratched their heads while wondering how to stay afloat due to the loss of income. Most bowling alleys are family owned businesses, so the effects were devastating to the local residents that ran these establishments.
I decided to head over to Bel-Mark Lanes on the day they reopened to enjoy a couple games, and also to see how they were handling the control of the virus. I believe that bowling alleys were getting a shade of doubt cast upon them when it came to reopening because of the sharing of balls, shoes and whatnot.
Upon arrival, one thing I noticed was how empty it was inside. Normally, when I go bowling the whole place is packed and I even sometimes have to wait to get a lane, or call ahead and reserve one. Aside from my cohort and I, there were only two other lanes being used. Another thing I quickly realized was that the inside smelled very clean, reminiscent of Lysol.
The clerk at the desk quickly rang us up for a lane rental - an hour and a half. With shoes, the cost was $25. For signing my credit card, there was a bowl labeled "Clean Pens," and another bowl labeled "Used Pens." This immediately made me feel as if they were taking the virus very seriously. I signed the bill and we got our shoes, then filled out a contact sheet. The sheet asked for my name, phone number, the date, the time that I was there, and what time I would be leaving, to trace contacts in case of an outbreak of the virus.
We then proceeded to go get our balls. The clerk handed us two pairs of gloves, so we could try multiple balls on for size without contaminating any but the one we wound up choosing.
After we got settled in, we proceeded to put our names on the board and began our game. With-in a short period, we ordered drinks which came quite promptly. The waitress informed us upon delivery that everything we used, we must "keep at the table", including shoes and balls. After another couple left, I saw just why she had said that. Belmark employees clean and sanitize the balls, tables, chairs, scoreboards and anything else upon your departure.
Aside from that, everything seemed normal. After a while, more people began to show up. Classic rock played through the speakers, and I began to feel more comfortable. Perhaps a little too comfortable. I figured that since I was at my table I could take my mask off, much like the current state of a restaurant. The owner Bill, quickly walked up and politely asked that I keep my mask on unless I am actively taking a drink because that is, "The only way she will allow us to stay open." I happily obliged and continued enjoying my time there.
If you're wondering about going bowling, I would say that Bel-Mark Lanes located at 3530 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor is doing their best to handle the COVID-19 pandemic safely and effectively while still making the game enjoyable. So if you feel comfortable, get out there and support a small locally owned business!