Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond to reopen Friday
Only one more day to “spare” until Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond will reopen its bowling alley and arcade to the public.
As Santa Barbara County entered the orange tier on Tuesday, bowling alleys were cleared to open with a maximum of 25% capacity, or a maximum of 50% capacity if all guests test negative for COVID-19 or show proof of full vaccination. Zodo’s will officially open its bowling alley and arcade at noon Friday.
Limited capacity for Zodo’s means 12 lanes are open out of its 24 in total, and only four people are allowed to bowl per lane versus the previous six. In addition, there is a 15-person maximum for the arcade.
“We’re very fortunate we do get to open the doors,” Charity Rice, the general manager of Zodo’s, told the News-Press on Wednesday. She added that although other long-time businesses in Goleta have closed permanently such as the Beachside Bar-Cafe and Mercury Lounge, staff at Zodo’s, which has been around since the 1960s, is happy to be able to reopen again.
There are many sanitation practices in place for the reopening, including disposable bowling shoes (similar to hospital slippers) for anyone who doesn’t want to use the bowling shoes available, according to Ms. Rice. Staff members will sanitize the bowling balls after each group’s use, and the general manager said they reorganized the bowling balls by size so the amount of surfaces touched is reduced.
This reopening follows a mix-up that led Zodo’s to reopen for five days at the beginning of April due to a miscommunication with the County Public Health Department. Ms. Rice said she was told by a county official that the bowling alley could reopen when she called the county’s call center at 2-1-1.
However, the bowling alley was not yet permitted to open, so Ms. Rice was contacted by the health department and ordered to shut down indoor recreation again.
“It was a bummer when we had to close because we did do everything the right way,” Ms. Rice said. “Business was going good, it was nice and steady, nothing was out of control. It was hard to be open for five days and then have the Public Health Department (shut it down).”
She confirmed that the department was understanding of the situation, and found the individual who gave Ms. Rice the incorrect information to ensure it wouldn’t happen to anyone else. However, she expressed concerns that the mix-up gave Zodo’s a “reputation that we’re being irresponsible.”
“We’ve been very responsible in following all the guidelines,” she said. “I’m glad to get my employees back to work and they’re really happy too.”
The general manager is also concerned about some of the guidelines in place for the bowling alley’s reopening, such as the fact that she could allow more bowlers in if they’re vaccinated.
“How are you supposed to know? What happens if you have one person that’s not (vaccinated)?” Ms. Rice said. “You can’t really control it.”
In addition, food and beverages are only allowed in designated areas, which Ms. Rice said can be detrimental to the bowling experience.
“The other thing that’s going to hurt us is that they do not allow you to drink and eat while you bowl. Bowling is just for bowling,” she said. “Luckily, we have two outdoor patios and our indoor concourse with plenty of room to do that, but it takes away the sport of bowling.
“People bowl because they want to come have a beer … Even the seniors like to have their coffee or soda.”
Ms. Rice said the measure raises concerns about more movement as well, with people going back and forth from where they’re allowed to have food and beverages and the lanes. She said, “If anything, it’s going to make people move more around the center as opposed to being stationed around a lane.”
The constantly changing guidelines — such as going from being able to bowl without a mask to now having to wear a mask the entire time — have been difficult to navigate, according to Ms. Rice.
“The fact that bowling got hit so hard when it’s not a contact sport — you can socially distance yourself,” she said. “It was just really sad that you could go sit in a movie theater for two hours right next to people but you couldn’t be moving on a bowling lane.
“That’s the main frustration, I think, the majority of people have had across the globe. You can do this, but you can’t do that?”
Nevertheless, Zodo’s is ready to welcome back its bowlers, and even welcomed back its senior league early to brush the dust off their skills Wednesday morning. Ms. Rice said she wanted to let the vaccinated seniors have first dibs, so she sent an email Tuesday to allow them to come and bowl without having to worry about other bodies indoors.
As a result, she said around 20 of them showed up, many of whom are over 90 years old. She said that Zodo’s lost two league members over the pandemic, but neither died because of COVID-19.
“Bowling is like another community. It’s like family. Seniors were so fearful for the whole year, not getting their exercise, not knowing if they could pick up the bowling ball again or if their friends were still going to be here,” Ms. Rice said. “I got to the point where I was reading the obituaries every week to see if we lost anybody, so to have them back where I can actually see them be healthy and happy again — it’s been a huge blessing.”
The bowling alley is currently only accepting walk-ins, no reservations, and will be open daily from noon to 10 p.m. Visit zodos.com to learn more.