Banbury Bowl not allowed to reopen: “It’s not been thought through”
Banbury Bowl boss tells of his shock on discovering bowling alleys could not open on July 4.
The Managing Director of Banbury Bowl has spoken to Banbury FM to express his frustration that bowling alleys have been told they cannot reopen on July 4.
Banbury Bowl, together with other bowling companies, had assumed they would be reopening alongside other parts of the leisure industry on July 4. Pete Terry from Banbury Bowl’s owners Disco Leisure Group told Banbury FM, “We had seen some major announcements from our competitors, including the industry leader – a stock market listed company. They announced publicly they were opening on July 4 and had opened their booking system so we followed suit. We believed we were reopening on July 4th and were shellshocked by the Prime Minister’s announcement.
“With a bowling centre being a large environment with natural alcoves and spaced out areas … we could socially distance really easily as opposed to pubs and other similar venues that are allowed to open”.
£20,000 has been spent at Banbury Bowl to ensure the venue is COVID-19 safe, but no one from the government has spoken to them. Mr Terry told Banbury FM, “The British Ten Pin Bowling Operators Association tried to make contact with the DCMS and they didn’t return that approach.
“A lot of work had gone into this and we really feel ignored”.
Measures which have been put in place at Banbury Bowl to ensure customer safety include an app so people can order food and drink without having to move around the venue, hand sanitiser stations, corex dividers for the lane tables, floor markings, PPE for staff and perspex screens to protect staff and customers. The venue already utilises an online booking system which ensure all customers can be traced and planned to move to only accepting bookings using this system.
Additional staff had been organised to take on the role of lane hosts and they would oversee a system to clean and sanitize the bowling balls. Security staff would be used to maintain safe numbers within the venue.
Having put in place the necessary precautions Mr Terry said his team were very surprised when Prime Minister Boris Johnson specifically named bowling alleys as places that would not be allowed to reopen on July 4th: “We were just very shell shocked and disappointed for our staff who have worked really hard to restructure the venues … to make them safe for people.
“It’s sloppy, it’s not been thought through”.
Mr Terry has written to Banbury’s MP Victoria Prentis to seek her help in finding a solution for the bowling industry. Whilst many businesses have benefitted from government financial support during the coronavirus pandemic the bowling industry hadn’t been able to take advantage of some of the help on offer. Whilst he acknowledges the furlough scheme has been very helpful, Mr Terry says they have missed out on other areas of support.
“We’ve been closed for three months, but the landlords for our properties can by law still demand full rent. In other countries across Europe there’s been a pause button mentality which means the landlord doesn’t pay their mortgage and you don’t pay your rent. But the attitude we’re getting from landlords is ‘that’s fair enough, but we will want you to pay the rent back for the period of closure’. If your rateable value is under £51,000 you can get a £25,000 grant from the government, but because rateable values are worked out on square footage ours are over £51,000 so we got nothing”.
Mr Terry is now urging the government to give an indication of the how long it will be before they can reopen so they can plan to try and “get the business back on track”.
We put some of Mr Terry’s points to North Oxfordshire’s MP Victoria Prentis who told us, “I understand how difficult the past few months have been for all businesses, including Banbury Bowl. I spoke to the Tourism & Sports Minister yesterday to express my constituents’ frustration about the remaining closure of bowling alleys, gyms and swimming pools. The Government is having to negotiate a wide set of considerations, and I know the that the situation is under active review. I very much hope we will have good news soon”.
In anticipation of reopening a marketing text was sent out encouraging people to make bookings at Banbury Bowl. Mr Terry has assured all those that made bookings that they would be fully refunded.
Listen to our interview with Pete Terry:
Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam