RALEIGH — A North Carolina Business Court judge has ruled in favor of North Carolina bowling alleys who sued Gov. Roy Cooper over his executive order that kept them closed while other businesses were allowed to open.
Judge James L. Gale, North Carolina Business Court issued the preliminary injunction, which allows the bowling alleys and members of the North Carolina Bowling Proprietors Association, Inc. to resume operations so long as certain guidelines and restrictions are followed.
“We WON!!! Bowling is coming back!!!” wrote Rainbow Lanes Family Fun Center on Facebook.
The restrictions for reopening bowling alleys are similar to that for other businesses that have been allowed to open, such as hair salons and retail establishments. Bowling alleys will need to follow patron 50% capacity limits as defined by Cooper’s executive order 141, which describe Phase 2 reopening rules for businesses. The use of face coverings will also be required per the governor’s most recent executive order.
Additionally, rental shoes shall be thoroughly cleaned between uses with a disinfectant approved for COVID-19 sanitation. Bowling balls must also be cleaned and shall not be shared by anyone who is not of the same family.
Cooper responded through spokesperson Ford Porter, who said that “Hospitalizations and positive cases are reaching record highs while the Governor works to get schools open and prevent the state from going backward on restrictions. The Governor will immediately appeal this ruling that harms both of these efforts.”
Gale’s order summarizes that the bowling alleys created a plan to reopen safely which was presented to the governor. The plaintiffs did not receive a response to their reopening plan and filed suit on June 5.
In the pre-suit response, Cooper’s office claimed executive order 141 temporarily closes business whose operation endangers the public health, however, the response “did not further delineate the basis on which the Governor distinguished bowling alleys from businesses he had allowed to reopen.”
Bowling establishments will need to train employees, adopt the proper safety signage, employ social distancing on and off the lanes and must make sure hand sanitizer is available throughout the venue. All employees will have to fill out a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken daily prior to starting work. Employees showing symptoms or who have a fever will be denied access to the facility and sent home.
Cooper filed a motion asking that the court to grant a stay “until such time as the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of North Carolina may decide the appeal.” The governor asked the appeal be expedited.
In the appeal, the governor cited “the advice of scientific and medical advisors,” and briefs from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary Mandy Cohen discouraging the reopening of bowling alleys. The appeal says that based on these experts, Cooper believes that “to reopen at this time of COVID-19, even with safety precautions offered, presents an immediate danger to public health and undermines the “dimmer switch” approach to re-opening of the State’s economy currently in place.”
If the stay motion sought by Gov. Cooper is not granted, the injunction may open the door for movie theaters, amusement parks and other entertainment venues to also open.
“This court decision reflects the difficult reality that the Governor has chosen winners and losers in North Carolina’s economy without any justification or consistency, devastating some family businesses while helping others,” Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said in a statement.
“The Governor’s inconsistent approach to closing businesses has been unfair, inequitable, and thus illegal from the start,” Moore said. “I continue to urge the Governor to produce a plan for all North Carolina companies, to communicate that plan, and to help businesses comply with consistent protocols so they may operate safely.”