15 August 2020 marked a new beginning for many leisure venues. After months of lockdown, bowling alleys, skating rinks, indoor theatre and indoor play centres (see separate article) were all allowed to reopen. For families, new options sprung up like bowling pins on a perfect strike.
It’s been five months since any of us glided across the ice or swung back the bowling arm. How have things changed to meet the coronavirus challenge?
Note: the following guide applies to venues in England and is accurate in mid-August 2020. Always check the UK Government's guidelines for the latest updates.
In line with most venues, you’ll now be asked to prebook your session. This was standard practice at most bowling alleys anyhow, so earth-shattering consequences are nil. The one difference is that your details might be kept for later tracing, should a suspected coronavirus case be linked to the venue. And you might be stopped for a temperature check on the way in.
The main thing to remember is your mask. Everyone over the age of 11 will be asked to wear one (unless exempt), except while eating or drinking. Some venues may set even lower age limits. So be prepared.
Expect further acts of accessorisation. You might be asked to wear disposable gloves while bowling, supplied by the venue. Other places may go for a hand-sanitiser-only approach. And you may be able to keep your trainers on -- some venues have ditched the need for hire shoes, whose loss nobody will mourn.
Who you can bowl with is also an issue. By law, you’re not supposed to mingle indoors with more than one other household. So watch out if you were planning a three-mums-and-three-kids bowling date, or similar.
Most venues will only be operating alternate lanes, giving groups plenty of space to manoeuvre. You won’t have to share a ball rack with anyone from another group.
Bowling alleys will also be putting in a lot more hygiene checks. Expect balls to be swapped or cleaned between sessions. All surfaces you might touch with your hands will be regularly disinfected. (It’s in the bowling company’s interests to do this; the last thing they need is an outbreak traced back to their venue.)
Bowling alleys often share a premises with an ice rink -- which makes it convenient that both venue types were allowed to reopen on the same day. Many of the changes listed above also apply to the ice rinks. Face masks, temperature checks, prebook only, reduced capacity, social distancing… it’s all ‘the new common sense’.
While some bowling alleys have waived the need to wear their hired-out shoes, ice rinks will still be providing the skates, as so few of us have our own. These will be cleaned between hires.
Otherwise, all surfaces you’re likely to touch -- such as the edges of the ice rink -- will be cleaned regularly. Hand sanitiser will be provided throughout the venue.
Browse our other articles on navigating the ‘new normal’ with children.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.