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Money and Business

Unable to move operations outside, family entertainment centers facing challenges with current restrictions

Pismo Bowl
Pismo Bowl 10-lane bowling alley sits empty Tuesday afternoon. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

PISMO BEACH, Calif. -- Many businesses are adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions, moving some of their operations outdoors.

Hair and salons, as well as barbershops, and other personal care services are latest business that have been allowed to operate outdoors.

While those businesses are taking advantage of new regulations, others aren't quite as fortune.

For many places, like some entertainment centers, they simply cannot shift operations outside.

"No, it's kind of hard to move this stuff," said Stevie Goldie of Pismo Bowl. "(The bowling alley) is not going to go anywhere. It kind of makes it so I can't be proactive. I can't problem solve out of this one. I just have to sit on my hands and wait for the okay to turn it back on. There's really nothing else that I can do."

Goldie's family has owned the 81-year-old bowling alley since 2000.

He said it's been a difficult stretch for the popular attraction since the pandemic started in mid-March.

"It's been hard," said Goldie. "As a business we've had to learn to be nimble and flexible and go day-by-day and see where the guidance comes from."

Pismo Bowl was closed for several weeks, then reopened as a restaurant only, serving take-out orders from its kitchen.

Later, after the county received clearance, the 10-lane bowling alley reopened.

"It was busy," said Goldie. "People were anxious to come out do things together as a family. It was great."

He added the reopening came with several new safety measures in place, including strict sanitation and disinfection procedures, as well as wipes, sanitizer, social distance markings, plexiglass screens installed throughout the building.

"Everything we did was from a focus point of safety," said Goldie. "What do we need to do to operate this in a safe way."

However, just weeks after reopening, San Luis Obispo County was placed on the state's Monitoring List, which forced several business sectors to close, including family entertainment centers.

Now, Pismo Bowl is only allowed to serve take out food orders, while it's bowling lanes and arcade remain closed.

"(Bowling) is everything to the business," said Goldie. "We're a bowling alley first and foremost and all of the operations that we do, are there to supplement and serve the bowling aspect of it, so without the bowling aspect of it, we're just another small diner, shop food area amongst many."

He estimates bowling accounts for as much as 80% of the business, so with that part of the business off limits, it's making a huge financial impact.

"I would definitely call it a devastating blow," said Goldie. "The short-term now is painful, but it's going to be the long term impact after this. We're kind of knee-capped and hobbling our way through the summer, so we'll see."

Fortunately, he added the restaurant has been successful during the recent bowling closure.

"The restaurant has been great," said Goldie. "The community support has been amazing. The people that have been supporting Pismo Bowl for years have been coming in for food."

A few miles away in Grover Beach, The Locked Inn escape room sits dark.

"We've been completely closed since March," said owner Heather Barr. "It's scary. It's been a struggle. Bills don't stop. We still have to pay the rent and all the other bills."

Barr purchased the five-year-old business last year.

She said supports her fellow local businesses as they too navigate the pandemic, and is happy many are allowed to adjust their operations.

"It is unfortunate the I can't do some of things that they can, so it's definitely terrifying," said Barr. "Just hoping that we can all get through this and keep the doors open."

Barr added that it's simply impossible to adjust her business to comply with the new indoor restrictions.

"The experience itself is the room, and being able to escape them and interacting with other people and large groups, so it's essentially what we're supposed to avoid right now," said Barr. "There's really nothing I can do to modify my business to open right now."

While her doors are shut, she's taking advantage of the down time to renovate some of operations inside.

"We're trying to take quite a chance and are taking this time to build our new room," said Barr. "We're hoping that once everything gets up and going again, that'll give some incentives to our past customers to come back and see us. It will be kind of a draw and we can hit the ground running. It's a lot of money we're spending and none coming in."

She added when they receive the green light to reopen, The Locked Inn will be ready to hit the ground running.

"We are getting ready for when we can open back up," said Barr. "There's nothing we can do at this point, so we're having a positive attitude and hoping that we're all going to get through this and come out the other side. We're just hoping for the best."

Business Matters / California / Community / Coronavirus / Economy / Safety / San Luis Obispo County

Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at KCOY|KEYT|KKFX.