After nearly six full months, Mebane has its bowling alley back, as Buffaloe Lanes is re-opening its doors to the public on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 8.
It’s been a long time coming for Center Manager Bryan Collier, who has stuck through the last several months in nervous anticipation of when the center could get back to action.
“We’re really excited, obviously. But it’s a process. Other businesses have been open, and they’ve been able to adapt this entire time,” Collier said in a recent interview. “We have not been open during the pandemic. Starting day one, we’re going to have to pivot a lot.”
The current plan is for Buffaloe Lanes to open on Tuesday, September 8, and be open that first day from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.. From there, times will be determined based on how busy the center is, as well as customer feedback. There will be a flat charge of $12 per person per hour, which includes shoe rentals.
"We will be a 9-10 lane center. Because we will have to go every other (lane),” Collier explained. “One day, we’re going to start with just the odd lanes, and the next day we’re going to go even and then flip-flop, so that the lanes and the machines are getting the same amount of use. With that separation, we can easily social distance. The distance between every other lane is ten feet.”
“How we open on Tuesday, September 8 at 1:00, it might be completely different the day after and the day after and the day after. We don’t know what to expect. We know what the percentages are saying,” Collier continued. “We’re going to be seven days a week, 1:00 to 8:00 p.m.. And those hours will fluctuate big time. If we’re busy, we want to make sure people aren’t getting frustrated, because we’re only going to be a 9-10 lane center. We want people to be able to come in here and enjoy themselves.”
“The pricing is going to be very simple. It’s going to be $12 dollars per person, per hour, and the shoe rental is included. Our COVID-19 pricing for the time being will be per person, per hour. Very simple. We’re going to take your payment - we have tablets, that’s kind of preferred right now - and there are hand sanitizer stations. We will have some seating in the dining room. If we have a waiting list, there will be seating where people can wait inside, or they can wait in the car. With all of our pricing being hourly, we will know exactly when lanes will be available.”
Along with the hours set during the day, Buffaloe Lanes is also considering setting up special senior hours for local residents who wish to bowl, but do not wish to potentially expose themselves to additional risk by entering the center with larger numbers of fellow bowlers.
“We’re going to be promoting senior hours. We did have a senior group that was bowling. We do have a lot of senior bowlers. We want to allow a time where maybe some of those senior bowlers can come in a little early,” Collier said. “Tuesdays we’ll probably do 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.. We’re going to leave open for seniors to come in and they can bowl just for themselves.”
The arcade will not be open at first, nor will the billiards area. Maximum occupancy for the 31,000 square feet Buffaloe Lanes facility is 157 people.
“It (Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive order) specifically said video arcades, PC gaming, poker, billiard tables and billiard halls (are still prohibited),” Collier said. “We have a monster arcade. At some point, we do have to get it open. We’re going to pull a couple of games out. The games will be more than six feet apart. We’re going to turn the games off that are high touch. When the arcade does open, we’re going to have a person on staff, and their thing is going to be sanitizing buttons. There will be somebody, when the arcade opens, that’s the job. They will be going through the arcade the entire time we’re open and sanitizing surfaces. We’re going to take care of all of it. We do anticipate adapting a lot.
Collier indicated that it will be required for all guests to wear face coverings at all times in the facility.
“I know some people are not going to like that. Some people may not feel comfortable bowling with a mask on,” he said. “That’s why we recommend, if they don’t want to wear a mask, some people may want to look into a face shield. It just needs to be nose to the bottom of the chin.”
“Bowling is a physical activity. So if somebody thinks they’re not going to feel comfortable bowling with a mask on, then now is probably not the right time for them to come in. We’re going to be taking all the steps necessary (to be safe),” Collier continued.
According to Collier, bowling shoes are sanitized before and after every use, just as they were before the pandemic. Bowling balls are going to be cleaned before and after every use as well. The Pro Shop operator is running specials on items in case non-bowlers who would be interested in purchasing their own equipment.
“Ours (shoes and balls) will be sanitized before and after every use. Most of the high-touch surfaces are gone. Most of our seating was not stationary, so we were able to pull a lot of it out. The concourse area is pretty bare. We took all the extra seating out. We’re going to be sanitizing everything. We’re saying we want you to come bowling with us and have fun with us when you feel ready, and when you feel safe.”
By the times Buffaloe Lanes does finally re-open next week, it will have been 172 days since their last day of bowling. At the time, the center was on pace for a record year. Now, they are trying to pick up the pieces, hopeful that their dedicated following of loyal bowlers will keep them afloat until they can fully reopen with their full compliment of activities.
“We’ll adapt and change. As the demand is there, we may get to the point where we do Starlight bowling again. It will be reserve ahead of time. We know that we’re going to be pivoting day to day,” Collier said. “We’ve been ready for months now. We’re going to evolve and adapt, and we want to make sure people feel comfortable.”
“We miss the community. We miss our bowlers. We miss our action. But we’re not going to do anything here to endanger our staff or customers. Temperatures are going to get checked every day. Staff is going to get screened vigorously,” he added. “We’ve been on the sidelines for a long time, but we feel like we can do this really well.”