A bowling alley in San Diego's Poway community is permanently closing, unable to rally for a win due to the ongoing strain of the coronavirus pandemic on top of other factors.
Bowling alleys and family fun center-type businesses have been among those to take a big hit over the course of the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite the easing of some pandemic-related restrictions in San Diego County and California for some businesses, bowling alleys have still not been given the greenlight to reopen.
San Diego County is currently under the purple tier in the state's Blueprint for a Safe Reopening. In this tier, the state guidelines say family entertainment centers like bowling alleys can only operate outdoors, with modifications for activities like kart racing, mini-golf, and batting cages. So, indoor bowling alleys remain closed.
But, even if family entertainment centers and bowling alleys are able to reopen, Poway Fun Bowl won't be able to turn the lights back on.
Jason Foyer, general manager of the bowling alley on Poway Road, told NBC 7 the business is shuttering for good.
“It's been emotional,” Foyer said. “Some of the times for them and for me, knowing right now that we're in the middle of selling everything and dismantling; it definitely has gotten me choked up a couple of times.”
Foyer said the pandemic dealt too big of a blow to the bowling alley -- one that there's simply no coming back from.
Poway Fun Bowl has been closed due to coronavirus restrictions in mid-March 2020 when the pandemic reached San Diego County.
The venue -- which can, at maximum capacity, hold 700 people -- sat empty for nearly a year, its 32 bowling lanes, arcade, 7 pool tables, sports lounge, and dance floor, abandoned.
Foyer said no money coming in and the uncertainty of the situation stabilizing didn’t bode well for business. So, Poway Fun Bowl decided to throw in the towel, finding it hard to see how they could manage for much longer.
Foyer said the pandemic isn’t fully to blame for the business shuttering.
He said there were negotiations in the works of potentially selling to a developer, however, Foyer said the owner didn’t have full intentions of selling until the pandemic hit, which put the longevity of the business into question.
“I think we might have actually been able to stay in business because we had actually seen an uptick in December, January, and February,” Foyer says. “We were starting to see growth.”
Foyer said the pandemic ultimately pushed the bowling alley to go through with shutting down for good.
Although coronavirus restrictions have been tough on the business, Foyer said he has fully backed the restrictions because they wanted to keep people safe.
Over the closure, he said longtime patrons have dropped by the bowling alley to leave uplifting notes outside.
One time, he ran into a patron at a grocery store and Foyer said the patron broke down in tears, telling him how much he longed to return to the lanes.
Foyer is hopeful the goodbye isn’t forever.
He, too, dreams of one day reopening another bowling alley -- but not until the COVID-19 situation is stable enough for a business to have the potential to thrive.
“Once we start to see more positive movement as far as the markets and COVID, then we'll be able to do something,” Foyer added.
Other San Diego Family Fun Centers That Have Closed During the Pandemic, So Far
Poway Fun Bowl isn't the first family fun center-type business to shutter during the pandemic in San Diego County.
Last fall, it was sadly game over for ULTRAZONE, the beloved laser tag venue on Sports Arena Boulevard that had been around for 25 years.
Meanwhile, in June 2020 Boomers! – another family entertainment attraction with locations in San Diego County – announced via social media it planned to close two of its San Diego locations, also due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Boomers! permanently shuttered its El Cajon location on Graves Avenue. The Kearny Mesa location on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard also closed – but, up until last fall, there were plans to revive that location under its original name, Family Fun Center. Boomers! Vista remains open, with only outdoor activities and safety modifications.