LINDEN, N.J. (NCC NEWS) – John Fategati has lived and breathe bowling his entire life. For 61 years, his family has owned Jersey Lanes in Linden, and for the last ten years he has run the family business. But no amount of experience could have prepared him for a scenario far more daunting than the 7-10 split: COVID-19.
“It had a huge impact,” said Fategati. “March is the best month of the year, and April is still really good, so it was really hard. You go from full speed to dead stop and its tough to plan for something like that.”
After almost four months in the dark, Jersey Lanes finally reopened on Thursday along with the rest of New Jersey’s bowling alleys as part of the second stage of Governor Phil Murphy’s reopening plan. For loyal customers such as Hayden Brown, it was not a moment too soon.
“This means so much to me right now,” said Brown. “After being stuck in the house for a couple of weeks, it was a good joy to know that Jersey Lanes was back open for me.”
The bowling alley Brown came back to looked a lot different than what he was used to. Maximum capacity is cut in half, screens separate the seated areas, masks are mandatory, and tables and chairs are vigorously sanitized after every customer leaves. For Brown, these precautions serve not just to protect the customers physically, but also to ease any fears that they may have.
“It’s a joy to know that they are actually looking out for your safety while bowling,” said Brown.
Fategate knows better than anyone after a life spent in bowling that the reopening of his lanes means not just a return to doing business, but a chance to see and interact with an avid bowling community once again.
“Bowling is such a community based activity,” said Fategati. “To be able to come back and bowl with your friends and bowl with your family again, this is their lives, this is part of what they did every day. So it meant a lot to our customers to come back and they’re all really excited.”