HOLLAND — It was an exceptional Tuesday night at Bam Entertainment Center.
For the first time in six months, the business opened its doors to bowlers — and not just those in traditional leagues.
“We could’ve opened a bit earlier, but it takes a lot of effort to get going again,” said owner Phil Huffman.
“There’s all this food to buy and special staff training and there was a cleaning like I’ve never seen before. You’d have to go into an operating room to find something that clean.”
The opening was prompted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement on Thursday, Sept. 3, that bowling centers could reopen as a venue for organized sports.
The announcement was part of an executive order that also reopened fitness centers, ice rinks and roller rinks.
“The logic behind league bowling is that centers can provide their local health departments with contact tracing in the event of an outbreak,” Huffman said.
“There’s no open bowling. But we showed the Ottawa County Health Department our software and our capability of being able to track our bowlers and I think they were impressed.”
In addition to traditional leagues, Bam now offers single-day leagues for families and groups of friends looking to bowl without making a weekly commitment.
“Let’s say a family wants to come in and bowl,” Huffman said. “They can go online and sign up for a one-day league. They’ll pick a day and a time. They’ll provide their contact information and we’ll assign them a lane. And that data can be provided to the health department if necessary.”
Bam has also reopened its restaurant, which will be entirely waitstaff-managed. Bowlers are not required to wear masks while eating or drinking at their table, nor while bowling.
“I went around to welcome everyone back,” Huffman said. “And I would say easily half of them were wearing masks even when they didn’t need to be — and that’s fantastic.”
According to Huffman, investments have been made in a hospital-grade fogger and special “virus-killing” lighting that will be installed soon.
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Taking extra precautions for a clean environment by using a hospital-grade disinfectant fogger in between guest visits.
Every other lane will remain empty to ensure social distancing, bowling balls are picked out using plastic gloves and leagues must have fewer than 10 people.
“We’ve been closed for six months,” Huffman said. “We wanted to open it right. We don’t want to cut any corners.
“We want to go above and beyond and make sure we’re doing everything not just to the letter of the law, but to the intent of it.”
For now, the center’s popular arcade and escape rooms remain closed.
“We’re patiently waiting to get approval to be able to open the rest of the business,” Huffman said. “When it’s allowed, we’re going to make sure we have safety protocols in place.”
Huffman was part of a recent lawsuit filed against Whitmer on behalf of the Bowling Centers Association of Michigan.
The association was joined by five Michigan bowling centers — all of which claimed the executive order forcing them to remain closed was unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was dropped after it was communicated to lobbyists that a meeting to discuss reopening would be more likely without ongoing litigation.
So far, Bam is the only bowling center offering single-day league options in the Holland area.
Northland Lanes on River Avenue in Holland Township has reopened for traditional league bowling only, while Zeeland Lanes on Washington Avenue shut its doors for good after the spring season.
Bam, 478 E. 16th St., is open Tuesdays-Sundays. Hours are subject to change. Visit facebook.com/BamEntertainmentCenter to learn more.
— Contact reporter Cassandra Lybrink at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram @BizHolland.