NORTH BEND — Right as the bowling season was heating up, COVID-19 shut everything down.
“Bowling centers make the majority of their money in February, March and April and part of May,” said North Bend Lanes owner Mark Mattecheck. In these months, a combination of bowling leagues, spring break and poor weather get people out to the lanes.
These months are critical to the financial security of bowling alleys around the country, and without them, Mattecheck is now worried about what the future holds. He noted two bowling alleys around the state have already closed down and if he is unable to open up then things will be shaky going forward.
“When you talk about taking away that league business where they bowl next to each other and when you talk about social distancing and plan for this to continue, my worry is not the next four months. My worry is over the course of the next year we won’t be able to sustain any kind of profitability and then you have to close,” he said. North Bend Lanes opened in 1957.
Mattecheck was under the impression that bowling centers around the state were going to open up in Phase 1 of the State’s reopening plan. The restaurant portion of the establishment was able to open but the lanes remain empty.
“Governor Brown’s office contacted us and wanted us to help put together guidelines to reopen. And so we wrote guidelines for them to reopen and we were going to be in Phase 1,” he said.
“So we put together a list and the list that we put together includes that we would basically … be 50% capacity. Every other lane, leave everything you have in the bowling area and it would be sanitized and cleaned and the balls would be dumped in alcohol and the guidelines were passed nationally as well as statewide. I mean, we approved them with The National Bowling Association.”
Now Mattecheck and lanes around the state are hoping to be involved in Phase 2 of the reopening process. Coos County entered Phase 1 on May 15. The earliest Phase 2 could begin is on June 5.
“Bowling alleys have not yet been authorized to reopen (even in Phase 1), which is why they are not otherwise mentioned in any of the current guidance documents,” said Liz Merah, Press Secretary for Governor Kate Brown. “As specialized businesses, we are still in conversations about how and when bowling alleys can begin to safely reopen. We will have specific health and safety guidelines for them when we determine under what phase they can reopen.”
As of Tuesday, there had been 29 positive cases of coronavirus in Coos County plus two presumptive positives.
Health officials and the Governor have warned of the risks of an increase in cases if cities, counties and states are opened up too quickly.
“I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative or Republican or Democrat, this issue, to me, it’s universal. You’re talking our small community, businesses shutting down. Will I ever come back to my full employee status? At this juncture maybe I’m going to come back 50%, 60%? Whatever that number is,” said Mattecheck.
“We have to get back to business or there is going to be devastation.”
North Bend Lanes has received support from around the area, most recently from House District 9 candidate Duane “Boomer” Wright.
“I find it troubling that bowling centers still don’t have guidance or a date for opening,” said Wright in a press release. “Some are barely hanging on. Most are small family run operations in rural communities. I believe business owners can and will run their businesses safely if given the opportunity and clear instructions. We need to allow our businesses to reopen so they and their employees can survive.”