Updated: May 10
Concord Bowl and Recreation Complex has been a staple within the South County area of St. Louis for decades. If you are from the area you have seen the gargantuan 1950s era vintage sign every time you drive up and down Tesson Ferry. Concord Bowl isn’t just a bowling alley, but also has their own mini golf, batting cages, and sand volleyball courts. However, their primary business, bowling, will not be allowed to open until June 15th.
With bars in STL county set to open on June 8th I was curious to understand why bowling alleys in the area were pushed back to the 15th. When asking an employee of Concord Bowl what difference being pushed back a week would make, he responded, “I’ll tell you the difference, about 10-20 grand in business.” Clearly many small businesses have suffered due to these shutdowns caused by COVID-19, but why are bowling alleys one of the last businesses to reopen?
According to the owner of Concord Bowl, Dan Beaman, “There hasn’t been much communication at all. We are put under the category of entertainment as an organized sport. Bowling alleys had to keep calling in to find out information.” County Executive Sam Page announced that remaining county businesses can begin opening on the 15th of June, and this would include entertainment such as bowling alleys. He also stated in an article on FOX 2 News, “Common Sense is a powerful deterrent against the virus.” Is common sense at work here though?
Dan Beaman stated, “One of the biggest reasons for not opening was because people put their fingers in the holes of the bowling balls.” Obviously, St. Louis county officials are worried that this would cause the spread of germs and bacteria, possibly COVID-19. Beaman however, is also the owner of St. Charles Lanes in St. Charles County, which has been open since May 4th. So another bowling alley which is only a 25 minute drive away from Concord Bowl (granted in another county) and owned by the same person is allowed to open, but Concord is not?
St. Charles Lanes has been abiding by certain rules and social distancing guidelines, such as encouraging patrons to stay 6-feet apart, hand sanitizer available all around the alley, and empty lanes between small groups of people bowling. “When a group gets done, the group leaves their house bowling balls on the lanes, while staff disinfects the shoes (like we’ve always done) sanitizes the touch pads, and sanitizes the bowling balls,” Beaman said thoroughly. But even with Beaman’s business in St. Charles following these guidelines it does not seem to be good enough for St. Louis County, which is forcing his bowling business here to remain closed.
It is not just his bowling business that is suffering due to this strict policy. Concord’s sand volleyball business has been pushed back until the 15th as well because it is also deemed a form of entertainment as an organized sport. “Certain county parks have volleyball nets and they’re open, but I can’t run my volleyball leagues?” Beaman asked, questioning the logic behind this decision. Concord’s Desert Falls mini golf was allowed to open though, and has been open since May 20th. Go figure right?
Common sense is clearly not at work here. Many loyal Concord bowlers have been travelling to St. Charles County or Jefferson County during this time to bowl, and many of them are St. Louis County residents. This “common sense deterrent” against the virus is not working. Bowlers are still going to bowl, and people are still going to play volleyball, whether it is organized or not. We are social beings, and everyone is tired of being cooped up in their homes.
Instead what Sam Page and St. Louis County are doing is forcing small businesses, like Concord Bowl, into a position where they are limited to a certain capacity to make money and provide for themselves and their families. This is not common sense Mr. Page, and these restrictions, delays, and limitations will not deter the virus. They will only hurt the local economy and small business owners like Dan Beaman. "I think by the time our fall league starts we will hit some normalcy where we will be able to pay our bills and make a few bucks, but first we have to open," Beaman stated.
The good news is that Concord Bowl and Recreation Complex will be allowed to open on June 15th. Better late than never! If you are healthy and want to get out of the house and have some fun, we here at Underground St. Louis suggest you give Concord Bowl a chance. After all, when you support a small business you are supporting someone’s dream!