SoCal bowling alleys fearful for industry's survival amid pandemic closures

REDLANDS, Calif. (KABC) -- A neighborhood staple could be on the verge of vanishing from many local communities due to COVID-19.

The operator of several bowling alleys says he's losing millions -- and he's concerned his industry may become extinct.

Like many businesses, Empire Bowl in Redlands has been shut down for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. It's left regular bowlers without a place to play their favorite sport.

"This is their home. People have bowled here for 60-plus years," said bowling alley manager Jennifer Lujan.

For owner Will Mossontte and his partner, who run seven bowling alleys in Southern California, it's heartbreaking. His father's 40-year legacy had been passed on to him.

"That was always my intention to do the same to my kids. I never once ever thought that was going to happen," said Mossonette. "It's an overwhelming feeling."

Nearly 200 employees have been without work, some having to find other jobs.

"I'm at my breaking point emotionally. I can't do it anymore," said Lujan. "My savings account is at 19 cents, we're not getting any relief."

Bowling alleys were allowed to reopen in June for 14 days before being shut down again. So safety measures are in place.

"We have 20-30,000 square foot buildings - we can easily socially distance," said Mossonette.

"We use our sprayer... it's an electro-magnetic sprayer. There's a chemical that kills COVID-19 in it," said Wayne Phelps, manager of Empire Bowl.

The bowling alley owners and managers remain hopeful that they'll be able to open again for their regulars. But once that happens, it will only be at 25% capacity.
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