LOWVILLE — Lewis Lanes is back in business following a more than six-month closure spurred by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
With plastic curtains between the lanes, plexiglas at the register and bar and a sign-in sheet on the front table, the Crouse family’s bowling alley is finally able to welcome bowlers back.
Megan L. Crouse, one of the owners, said welcoming people back has been a rewarding — yet very different — experience.
“It has gone very well,” she said on Thursday night, as league bowlers settled in for their first night back in over half a year. “We were nervous at first, wondering what the public was going to do and if they were going to comply with the masks and stuff.”
Mrs. Crouse said she’s pleased to see everyone complying with the mask mandate. It’s already custom for league bowlers to respect each other’s personal space while bowling with the tradition of lane courtesy, and she said they’ve had no concerns over social distancing.
Bowlers are also required to sit at alternating tables, between the high-tops toward the back and the regular tables by the lanes.
“They understand what they have to do, and what they can’t do,” she said.
Since their reopening the day after Labor Day, Lewis Lanes had only hosted league bowlers. Mrs. Crouse said open bowling would restart Friday, by reservation. Those wishing to bowl can call the alley to make a reservation. Currently, bowling alleys statewide are limited to 50% of their normal capacity, so half of the alley’s lanes are closed every night.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo allowed bowling alleys to reopen on Aug. 24, but Lewis Lanes decided to wait until the league season started, right after Labor Day, to ensure they had the time to implement the required adjustments and rehire staff, and to ensure they would have a regular customer base.
“We were a little nervous on how many teams were going to come back after a while,” Mrs. Crouse said. “We had an idea of who was going to come back based on word of mouth, so that helped, but we did lose a few teams. We’re very thankful for what we do have.”
Geoff Buckingham, secretary and treasurer for the local Community Men’s League, is one of the bowlers who returned this season. In March, six weeks of his league’s season were cut off by the lockdown.
“All of the sudden, Thursday nights freed up, and I didn’t really know what to do,” Mr. Buckingham said, “but then I was out of school too, so that was a new experience altogether. I’m glad we (are able to) get going again this year.”
Mr. Buckingham is an engineering and mathematics teacher at the Jefferson-Lewis BOCES campus in Lowville.
He said coming back does feel different. Besides the masks and plastic curtains, physical contact is discouraged, and social distance is encouraged at all times.
“It’s just gonna be a different vibe,” he said.
Marion Goings is another bowler returning after an interrupted season. She said bowling is one of her main sources of entertainment, and when the season abruptly ended last spring, she was very disappointed.
“It was not a happy thing, because, well, I’m a terrible bowler, but I love the socialization and being with people,” she said. “Being cut off from people was just so horrible. The people that live here and come here are just so good.”
The atmosphere in the bowling alley was bright Thursday night, as people conversed at staggered tables, all wearing masks.
Mrs. Goings said at 70 years old, she’s extremely strict about those around her wearing masks, and she regularly chastises people wearing theirs improperly.
“I’m a mask police person, definitely,” she said. “I think too many people don’t realize, the mask is not helping me when I wear one, it’s helping you. It’s keeping you safe from something I may have. A lot of people want to say they don’t feel comfortable with their masks on, and take them off. They’re hurting me, not themselves, when they do that.”
Lewis Lanes will continue to welcome league bowlers for the rest of the 35-week season, with open bowling available when leagues are not using every lane. Mrs. Crouse said this year, between being closed for over six months and the continued reduction in capacity, she definitely expects to see a significant decrease in profit. She said despite the outlook, the team is keeping positive and staying grateful for all the support they have from their community.
“Hopefully, people will continue to come out and support the lanes and all that we have going on,” she said.