HOLLYWOOD Bowl – the UK’s biggest operator of ten-pin bowling centres, with 1,900 employees and 60 centres across the UK – is just one of many industry voices urging the government to get Britain back bowling immediately or risk industry job losses and business closures.
More than 8,000 people, many currently on furlough, work in the ten-pin bowling industry across the UK but despite industry-wide adherence to government social distancing and COVID secure guidelines, the doors remain closed.
Hollywood Bowl, 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.
Hollywood Bowl, like other ten-pin bowling businesses, had already implemented extensive government guidelines, for the hospitality and leisure sectors, to ensure centres were safe and ready to welcome back customers. But, whilst other indoor hospitality and attractions flung open their doors on the 4 July, the bowling sector is yet to be given government permission to open in England.
Stephen Burns, Chief Executive at Hollywood Bowl Group, the UK’s biggest operator of ten-pin bowling centres with 1,900 employees 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.”
In 2019, the industry’s value to the UK economy was £310 million. At the heart of the community, ten-pin bowling centres are often anchor tenants in larger leisure and retail parks, meaning they also boost other businesses such as nearby shops and casual-dining restaurants. In keeping ten-pin bowling centres closed, not only are thousands of families missing out on an affordable, fun activity that they can all enjoy together, but other local businesses also suffer.
Ten-pin bowling centres also have other positive factors in their favour, which has left many confused as to why they have been left behind in the recent reopening of other leisure and hospitality destinations. Centres are well-ventilated, large, open spaces meaning they can be easily adapted for social distancing. Hollywood Bowl centres, as an example, average around 29,000 sq. ft in size. Whilst bowling balls are made of low-risk material, being non-porous and easy to sanitise between games. The refusal to allow the low-physical intensity, inclusive game of ten-pin bowling to recommence has been met with disappointment and confusion by operators.
Gary Brimble, General Secretary at TBPA adds: “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.”
Others in the industry have also joined forces to help get centres open.
Duncan Garrood Chief Executive at Tenpin, the UK’s second largest operator adds: “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.”
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