coronavirus in connecticut

Bowling Alleys, Movie Theaters Preparing To Return To Phase 2.1

Limited capacities and early closing times are presenting challenges to two industries heading toward what are normally busy months.

NBC Connecticut

As the weather begins to chill people will undoubtedly be looking for indoor entertainment options. Those options though will once again be limited as the state rolls back to Phase 2.1.

Peak bowling season is about to begin, and it will start with the pins stacked against it. Plainville’s Lessard Lanes was looking forward to the coming months. Owner Marcel Lessard said November to April are the busiest times, and his business has been steadily building over the last few weeks. So, when he heard the state was rolling back to Phase 2.1, he was concerned.

“I thought we were going to be fine and this is certainly a huge step backwards,” said Lessard.

Lessard said he has invested thousands of dollars in safety measures. He has poured money into wall-mounted thermometers, partitions between lanes, and extra staff dedicated to cleaning.

Bowlers who spoke with NBC Connecticut Thursday, all of whom fall in the high risk category, said they have no concerns at the alley.

 “I feel very safe,” said 80-year-old, Marie Mucaro of Farmington.

Mucaro was one of several bowlers participating in a senior league at Lessard Lanes.

“They take all kinds of precautions,” she said. “We wear masks everywhere except when we bowl.”

Jim Shivick is 70 years old. He bowled a perfect game earlier this year and said bowling is his passion. He explained why he feels safe.

“You can spread out here you don’t have to be right on top of each other so as far as an indoor sport I think this is fine,” he said.

Lessard said he understands the health concerns and agrees with limited capacity, which requires a cap of 100 people.  His investment in safety measures though leaves him confused as to the early closing mandate.

“The safety that we offer at 10 p.m. is the same safety we offer at 7 o’clock in the evening,” said Lessard.

Lessard explained that his business is already down significantly from last year and with these restrictions he estimates to lose another 15% to 20% compared to last year.

A return to Phase 2.1 means movie theaters will also be capped at 100 people and close by 9:30 p.m. The owner of Parkade Cinemas in Manchester said there are bigger obstacles to overcome than the return to Phase 2 regulations.

“If people aren’t comfortable coming there’s no point in being open all day long,” said Davis.

The problem is real - until people feel safe some will continue to avoid theaters.

“You can go and rent a movie or watch a movie on TV and make your own popcorn so I think it’s just safer not to go right now,” said one Manchester woman.

Through the summer, The Parkade Cinema faced the business challenges of COVID-19 by investing heavily. They installed touchless bathroom appliances and are using high-tech sanitation methods. All this was done to make people comfortable. Davis said people weren’t overwhelmingly receptive.

“If I knew then what I know now I might’ve hesitated to invest so much in the reopening,” said Davis.

One investment that did provide some assistance were two temporary outdoor screens and projectors they bought and set up in the cinema parking lot. They will continue to operate on weekends for a few more weeks. Beyond that Davis hopes people will notice the safety investments they’ve made inside.

“We are a community business and we’re doing everything possible to make sure this is as safe as possible can be for people to come in,” said Davis.

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