Bowling center proprietors in Illinois were allowed to reopen by Governor J.B. Pritzker on June 26, but with perhaps the most unusual limitation yet seen in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic: Centers could open, but all were limited to no more than 50 people at a time for bowling.
The same limitation applied to an eight-lane center as to a 60-lane center. Thus, an eight-laner could be running at well above normal lane capacity, while a 60-laner would be more like an echo chamber.
“Restaurants are allowed to fully reopen inside dining with 6-ft. spacing,” noted Henry Barber, proprietor of Hillside Bowl in Hillside, Ill. “Youth and recreational sports are allowed 50% occupancy for participants, with an additional 20% capacity for spectators. Health clubs can have 50% occupancy with 6-ft. spacing. All we want is the same treatment.”
But that equal treatment was not forthcoming, and the Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association formed a task force to address the issue. On July 14, the ISBPA filed a lawsuit asking a Lee County state court to invalidate the governor’s “unconstitutional and improper” exercise of authority.
“Frankly, Governor Pritzker has thrown a gutter ball on this one,” said Bill Duff, Executive Director of the association. “Even medical experts agree that bowling is not a highly dangerous activity with regard to COVID-19 spread.
“As the businesses of our members buckle under the governor’s orders, it’s hard to explain to employees, the bowling public and family members why other activities rated by experts as more dangerous than bowling enjoy the governor’s favor,” Duff added. “That’s why we want the court to intervene and put a stop to this before more harm is caused.”