Small group of bowling alleys sue state over indoor dining restrictions

Not all bowling alleys are represented in a new lawsuit against the state. Only five are listed as plaintiffs. It claims that if businesses can't fully operate, then they are asking for some compensation from the state. 

Most bowling alleys have spent the money, taken the safety measures and precautions to operate. But restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are keeping customers to a minimum and the timing couldn’t be worse. 

"Our bread and butter are in the winter and fall," said Scott Bennett, of the Independent Bowling and Entertainment Centers Association.

The current version of bowling like all businesses restricts indoor dining. 

"About 60 to 80 percent of our revenue is made from food and beverage," Bennett said.

And at five businesses - most on the west side of the state - filed a lawsuit against the health department. The lawsuit does not give a specific amount in damages but it is in the seven figures.

"If we are going to bear the brunt of this shutdown and bear the brunt of bringing the (COVID-19) numbers down, then we need to be compensated for doing the heavy lifting," Bennett said.

They are being represented by IBECA.

"These are the gathering places for a lot of people this is going to be a huge loss if this continues," he said.

Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services says it has not seen the current lawsuit, but added in a statement from spokesperson Lynn Sutfin.
"MDHHS has put in place measures that will save lives by limiting specific indoor gatherings that greatly increase the risk of COVID-19 spread. Public health experts from around the nation and world say these types of actions prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

IBECA says, they are not trying to diminish the pandemic but simply saying the rules should be fair. 

"We know that this is serious but we can operate safely just like the major retailers are," Bennet said.

The lawsuit represents a small number of bowling alleys. Others say like one in Berkley says while the current system isn't perfect they don't want to rock the boat and risk further restrictions.