The way Jamie Jones figures it, RiversEdge Bowl is running at 60-70% capacity right now.
And that brings a big smile to the bowling alley proprietor’s face.
In the midst of a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Jones knows all too well that his business and livelihood could be running at 0% capacity.
League play has returned, and although strict COVID guidelines are in place, Jones and his patrons are glad to be back.
“It’s certainly better than the alternative, and that’s to be shut down and not have any business at all,” Jones said. “I think everybody realizes that right now, bowling and being here is a privilege that could be taken away at any time.
“Our ultimate goal, as long as it’s safe, is to have as many come back as possible.
“We’ve added some safety measures, especially in regards to masks, but other than the one or two that have complained about the mask policy, everybody else is willing to abide by it if it means they can get back to bowling and being around their friends and teammates. It’s all about being considerate when you are here, and most people understand that.”
RiversEdge started the 2020-21 season with 15 adult leagues and three junior leagues. Jones said two other adult leagues from previous seasons opted out.
The three junior leagues, which bowl on Saturday mornings, will not start until sometime in November. Jones said the start of the junior leagues was delayed until everything was sorted out as far as school is concerned—whether kids are learning on campus, virtually or a combination.
RiversEdge has 24 lanes. Jones said during all league play, only 12 of the 24 lanes are used. That has resulted in many leagues having to cut a 32-week season down to 16.
The Wednesday Independent League—which is one of the top men’s leagues in the city—has 23 teams. In order to accommodate the group, each team in the league will bowl every other week.
“With job situations, it would’ve been too hard to try an have an early shift and then a late shift on the same night for that league,” Jones said. “We’re allowing teams to bowl together on say lanes 1 and 2, but then there would be a lane open between them and Lane 4.
“Like I said, although it’s not the perfect setup, it’s better than the alternative.”
Senior leagues are also back at RiversEdge. The Monday Senior League, which has high participation, is running with a morning and afternoon shift to accommodate all the seniors interested in bowling.
“They’re retired, so this isn’t that big of a deal really to them,” Jones said of his senior bowlers, referencing their time restrictions. “And this way, they all get a chance to bowl.”
Jones said the lack of group outings during the pandemic has hurt business, but it is showing signs of coming back.
“We’re starting to see more and more birthday parties and other outings getting booked, and that’s great to see,” Jones said. “People realize that they can still come here and have fun while doing it as safely as possible.
“If we get a group that takes up three or four lanes, we’ll allow them to stay together and bowl together because that’s how they booked the party. And if there is another group outing taking place, there will be at least one lane in between those parties so social distancing is still taking place.”
Calls to El-Ra Bowl, the other bowling alley in Janesville, by The Gazette went unreturned this week.
At RiversEdge, the mask policy and other COVID guidelines are being strictly enforced, according to Jones. All staff members, including those in the bar, are required to wear masks. All patrons must wear a mask when entering the building and must keep it on unless they’re bowling or sitting with their team together at the same table.
Tables in the bar are spaced according to Rock County Health Department COVID guidelines, a new glass is served with each drink and straws are supplied with the wrapper still on the top end.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure everybody stays safe and healthy,” Jones said. “We want to keep going forward and not have things go back to the way they were in March, where we had to close our doors.
“It’s a privilege to be open right now, and everyone knows it.”