© MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN Jim Monahan poses for a portrait among the empty lanes at All Star Lanes & Casino in Silverdale on Wednesday, August 12, 2020.
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SILVERDALE — Randy DeBolt has been bowling since he was a toddler. His grandmother owned a restaurant inside an alley and his father would take him to the youth leagues at Hi Joy Bowl in Port Orchard on Saturday mornings.
- Tom Myers, owner of All Star Lanes & Casino in Silverdale, has cut back on staff and put off capital improvements. “We’re fortunate that we’re able to pay our bills,” he said. No one was available to talk to at the other local commercial card room, Chips Casino in Bremerton.
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The 37-year-old has loved to bowl ever since, playing four times a week and even forming his own local tour throughout the South Sound. He has five 300 games to his name.
It is more than just a bowling alley. There is a casino and of course, the restaurant. They have a room where our Toastmaster's used to meet weekly. Nice people, decent prices and smiling servers.
But he's increasingly worried he's bowled his last frame in Kitsap.
'Who knows if they'll be able to make it,' he said of the two remaining public bowling alleys on the peninsula. 'It's very uncertain right now.'
DeBolt helped organize a rally outside the Hi Joy Bowl in Port Orchard on Saturday, advocating for bowling alleys to be reopened. 'Don't leave us in the gutter,' one sign read.
Under state COVID-19 guidelines, bowling alleys are listed as reopening in Phase 4, two beyond Kitsap's current Phase 2. There's increasing worry that may not happen until at least 2021, leaving the family that owns Kitsap's last two bowling alleys — All Star Lanes & Casino in Silverdale and the Hi Joy Bowl in Port Orchard — in limbo.
'This is the only time we've ever asked, 'Are we gonna make it,' said Kylie Myers-Hicks, All Star's operations manager. 'It's scary for sure.'
These are bowling's slow months; business picks up in the winter. Getting through late 2020 and early 2021 could make the difference, she said.
The alleys, like other indoor recreation businesses, face a precarious future under the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Far removed from their midcentury heyday, when even Kitsap had at least a half-dozen bowling alleys, the sport now faces possible obsolescence. Earlier this month, Glacier Lanes in Everett closed its doors after 60 years in business. © MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN Empty and dark lanes at All Star Lanes & Casino in Silverdale on Wednesday.
Hi Joy and All Star, owned by the Myers family since 1970 and 1985, respectively, have been closed since March 16. While restaurants and bars at both have been able to reopen, the lanes — 40 at All Star and 32 at Hi Joy — remain empty.
The bowling alley's management received money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, but that money will run out by October. At that point, things are uncertain for the employer of more than 200 people.
'There's just a point where the savings runs out and there's nothing to fall back on,' Myers-Hicks said.
Myers-Hicks would like to see rules established for earlier openings of bowling alleys like those her family operates. Already, the business has created a socially-distanced environment and ramped up disinfection.
'We would follow every guideline to a T,' she said. 'We have so much space, we could distance easily.'
There is one bowling alley that remains open, albeit on a limited basis, and it's just for sailors and their families. The Olympic Bowling Center at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor is open Friday and Saturday nights.
Base officials inspect the center prior to opening, and bowling is restricted to every other lane. Only families can bowl together, according to Jake Chappelle, a Naval Base Kitsap spokesman.
'All others are required to be spaced out,' he said, adding that bowlers leave behind balls and shoes at their lanes for staff to disinfect.
Myers-Hicks said they're prepared to take all those measures and more.
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'We've got the room,' Myers-Hicks said. 'They just need to let us use it.'
Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, [email protected] or on Twitter at @joshfarley.
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This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: COVID-19 restrictions leave Kitsap alleys to wonder if they'll ever bowl another frame