75 North Carolina Centers Reopen… Then Are Shut Down Again

by Bob Johnson 0

Considering BPAA Past President Nancy Schenk is North Carolina Legislative Chair of the Bowling Proprietors Association of the Carolinas and Georgia, it should come as no surprise that the 75 BPAC/GA-member centers in the Tar Heel State were allowed to open their doors.

Not long after businesses began to reopen in North Carolina, Schenk publicly questioned Governor Roy Cooper’s mandates, wondering why bowling centers were excluded. Realizing that nothing was likely to happen unless action was taken, Schenk, BPAC/GA President Melanie Campbell and Executive Director Renee Denis went to work.

The result: Based on a ruling by North Carolina Business Court Judge James Gale, member centers were allowed to reopen with a lengthy list of safety guidelines and practices provided by the court — virtually all of which centers were prepared to enact anyway.

The BPAC/GA was represented in the action by attorney Anthony Biller of the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm.

The association’s motion for a preliminary injunction was heard in front of Judge Gale on July 1, asking for the right to reopen under restrictions similar to those of other businesses then being allowed to operate. BPAC/GA preparedness was described as “a large factor in our success” by Campbell, who noted that “much of the guidance from the 17-page BPAA COVID-19 Response Manual was incorporated into the judge’s order.”

But at midnight on July 18, centers were forced to close again by the North Carolina Supreme Court while it reviewed an appeal from Cooper. As Carolina Coast reported, Democrats hold a 6-1 majority on the state’s highest court, with the chief justice and one associate justice having been appointed by Cooper. This means the Democratic governor is unlikely to face partisan opposition from the Supreme Court.

Without the fear of his action surviving judicial review, Cooper is able to issue mandates that are nearly impossible for small businesses such as bowling centers to overcome.

Judge Gale referred to a legal standard called “reasonable relationship” in his opinion on bowling centers. The Supreme Court could have allowed Gale’s order to stand as the case worked its way through the legal process. Instead, Carolina Coast noted, the justices accepted Cooper’s request to block the trial court order. And that meant the centers had to close again.

Now, Cooper and the bowling centers have until Aug. 19 to file all arguments and paperwork in the case for the justices to review. But by then, some of the centers may have blown through their reserves, leaving them unable to reopen even when finally allowed to.

The situation is making many people re-think how they’ll vote in the November elections. Carolina Coast quoted the mother of a 22-year-old autistic son who was having one of his most cherished activities taken away with centers again being shut down.

“I’m most frustrated with Roy Cooper,” Jennifer Clapton said. “I’m not even a Republican, and I’m afraid he’s going to make me vote that way.”

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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