Ten-pin bowling businesses launch ‘Bring Back Bowling’ campaign calling on government to let them reopen


As the doors to the bowling industry remain closed, business owners say they’re disappointed and confused


Emma Gill
5:35, 10 JUL 2020

Ten-pin bowling businesses have joined forces to campaign for the reopening of bowling alleys.

Places like Namco Funscape in the Trafford Centre and Hollywood Bowl sites across Greater Manchester have been closed since March.

And unlike other leisure venues that have started to reopen, the government has ruled they must remain closed.

Namco Funscape, together with the Ten Pin Bowling Proprietors Association (TBPA), UKHospitality and other bowling business owners, are urging the government to reconsider their position before it causes ‘critical damage’ to the industry.

Namco, which has 335 employees and seven entertainment centres across the UK, had already implemented extensive government guidelines to ensure the centres were safe and ready to welcome back customers. But, whilst other indoor hospitality and attractions flung open their doors on the July 4, the bowling sector is yet to be given government permission to open in England.

Gary Brimble, general secretary at TBPA, said: “Bowling centres have been closed for more than three months and fully expected to be reopening with other hospitality and leisure businesses on the 4th July.

“Our Covid-safe measures allow for a safe environment for both our customers and staff and our spacious layouts are easily adapted for social distancing. Let’s get bowling again, bring some fun back for our customers, protect the jobs of the 8,000 staff and prevent the closure of many bowling centres.”

Philip Milward, Namco’s commercial director, added: “We’re looking forward to welcoming customers back to one of our fun-filled, family locations real soon. We want customers and our staff to play safely, therefore we’re making some changes to how we operate at Namco Funscape.”

In 2019, the bowling industry’s value to the UK economy was £310 million. Often the anchor tenants in larger leisure and retail parks, they boost other businesses such as nearby shops and casual-dining restaurants.

Industry bosses say their closure is not only preventing thousands of families missing out on an affordable, fun activity they can all enjoy together, but is harming other local businesses too.

They say the refusal to allow the ‘low-physical intensity, inclusive game’ to recommence has been met with disappointment and confusion by operators who say it’s no riskier than other activities.

With alleys in well-ventilated, large, open spaces, this means they can be easily adapted for social distancing, they say. And bowling balls are made of low-risk material, being non-porous and easy to sanitise between games.

Stephen Burns, chief executive at Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s biggest operator of ten-pin bowling centres, said: “Ten-pin bowling is a sector that is ready to operate in a Covid secure manner.

“We have worked incredibly hard to ensure we are adhering to the operational protocols around social distancing policies, capacity management and sanitisation and are more than ready to welcome back friends and families to enjoy themselves in a fun and safe environment within our spacious centres.”

Duncan Garrood, chief executive at Tenpin, the UK’s second largest operator, added: “Our family entertainment centres are extremely spacious, scrupulously ready for appropriate social distancing and enhanced hygiene, and our teams are in training to deliver a safe and fun experience for everyone. All we need is to be allowed to open.”

They are calling on customers and communities to back their #BringBackBowling campaign by signing the petition here.

Yesterday the government announced a further easing of lockdown and outlined which businesses can open in the coming days and weeks.

As well as bowling alleys, others that must remain closed include indoor play centres, including soft play areas, indoor skating rinks and dance halls.

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