Dozens of North Carolina bowling alleys closed since March can reopen provided they meet sanitizing and social distancing rules, a state judge ruled on Tuesday in blocking part of Gov. Roy Cooper's COVID-19 executive orders shuttering them.
Judge James Gale granted a preliminary injunction that would apply to the 75 North Carolina bowling establishments within a three-state industry association. Lawyers for the state immediately asked Gale to delay the effective date of his decision while they appeal on Cooper's behalf.
The Bowling Proprietors Association of the Carolinas and Georgia sued last month. It said a state law Cooper was using to mandate business closings was unconstitutional, and that its members were treated differently than businesses with similar risk factors allowed to reopen.
Cooper has largely won in court during the pandemic against lawsuits filed by other business groups, seek similar reopenings.
The ruling says that the bowling alleys must limit the number of patrons allowed inside, patrons and workers must wear masks, at least one empty lane must be maintained between each group and patrons other than immediate family members cannot share a bowling ball.
Other guidelines include:
- All bowling balls shall be removed from the lane concourse area after usage
- When allowing a patron to choose a bowling ball for use, once touched by a patron, the ball shall be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before being allowed to be touched by another patron
- All unnecessary touch points throughout the concourse shall be eliminated, and those that cannot be eliminated, included seating areas, will be wiped between use by groups and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized each twenty-four hour period
- Hand sanitizer stations shall be made available throughout each establishment
- Any employee shall have access to at least two safety classes which teach how to safely work and provide a safe environment for patrons
- Social distancing throughout the venue shall be encouraged and enforced
- All employees must answer a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken daily prior to working. Any employee showing symptoms or with a fever shall not be allowed to enter the establishment
- Adequate precautions shall be taken to guard against the presence of any employee or patron known or reasonably believed either to be exhibiting symptoms of infection with the COVID-19 virus or to have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus within the preceding 14 days
Governor Roy Cooper responded to the order, asking the court for a stay until the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of North Carolina may decide the appeal.
In the request, he argued that: based on advice of scientific and medical advisors, that allowing entertainment and fitness facilities, including bowling alleys, to reopen at this time of COVID-19, even with safety precautions offered, presents an immediate danger to public health and undermines the "dimmer switch" approach to re-opening of the State's economy currently in place.
In a statement, his spokesperson said:Hospitalizations and positive cases are reaching record highs while the Governor works to get schools open and prevent the state from going backward on restrictions. The Governor will immediately appeal this ruling that harms both of these efforts.
Nancy Schenk, who operates with her husband the B&B Bowling Lanes in Fayetteville, was pleased with the ruling. Schenk said she plans to reopen her lanes Wednesday morning with a half-dozen employees who have already received safety training. The couple was worried that, without revenues, the alleys started by her father more than 60 years ago would have to close for good.
"We have the square footage and the ability to social distance better than most of the business that have been allowed to reopen," said Schenk, an association leader.
Fewer than 20 bowling centers in North Carolina aren't association members, Schenk said, and thus aren't covered by the decision.
Here's more on the coronavirus pandemic from our news partner WTVD ABC11: