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Bowlers, moviegoers trickle back to reopened metro Detroit businesses

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Westland – As soon as the clock struck midnight on Monday, Steven Klein, owner of Vision Lanes bowling alley, grabbed a bowling ball and threw it down a lane. Beside him, his wife and daughters did the same.

In anticipation of the alley reopening, customers, some of whom were fresh off the night shift, formed a queue outside. They too got in and started rolling, some lasting until the wee hours of the morning.

The late night bowling session was a way to celebrate the reopening at a time when Vision Lanes in Westland was facing such major hurdles that Klein recently penned an “obituary” for the deal he and his own Ms. Lisa opened 17 years ago and complained that his “baby” was “slowly dying”.

It was also another milestone in the dizzying history of Michigan’s pandemic shutdown orders. On Monday, under new orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, bowling alleys, cinemas, casinos, stadiums and high schools with security restrictions were allowed to reopen. Indoor dining will be closed until January 15th.

Some companies eagerly took the opportunity to welcome customers back as soon as they were allowed to. others decided to wait a few days; Still others decided to postpone it indefinitely due to restrictions such as a ban on concession sales.

The prospect of reopening without the ability to serve food and drink is a challenge for companies, especially cinemas, that derive a large part of their profit from concessions.

Numerous theaters in Metro Detroit are choosing to remain closed for the time being because it is not economically viable to operate without concession sales to cover costs. According to some estimates, cinemas generate up to 85% of their sales through concession sales.

And to encourage social distancing, capacities are limited in facilities that have been allowed to reopen.

State regulation states that for venues with non-fixed seating, capacity is limited to 20 people per 1,000 square feet. For all venues, the capacity is limited to a maximum of 100 people in a “specific” room of the venue. Stadiums and arenas where sporting events take place can accommodate up to 250 people.

Still, some operators were ready to reopen, if for no other reason than to keep their customers entertained. Troy-based Emagine Entertainment has 10 Michigan theaters and all but one, The Riviera in Farmington Hills, will reopen Wednesday.

Emagine expects no profit from the reopening, said co-founder and chairman Paul Glantz, as concession sales represent 48% of per capita income and average film fees are around 60%.

“We mainly open to serve our guests,” he said.

What might help is the reopening the week of “Wonder Woman 1984” release. Emagine and other theaters will also have the thriller “Fatale”, the Tom Hanks drama “News of the World” and, for children, “The Croods: A New Age”.

“The importance of the opening is that we are all creatures of habit and that if we get out of the habit of making films this year it will be detrimental to our business in the long term,” said Glantz. “It’s really important that we are open because the week between Christmas and New Years is usually one of the busiest times of the year.”

Glantz, who has expressed his disdain for the state’s order to shut down theaters, said the company’s revenue has fallen 90% overall this year, but he hopes theaters will make a comeback.

“People have enjoyed church activities since Roman times,” he said. “The thought that we will not be returning to activities like a basketball game, a football game, going to a movie, going to a concert … it is against human nature.”

AMC Theaters didn’t respond to a request for comment, but the Showtime lists showed that many locations reopened on Monday. The main arts theater in Royal Oak is slated to open on Friday. Further details on the demonstrations will be published at a later date.

By late Monday afternoon, more than a dozen vehicles were parked in the parking lot of a Livonia AMC theater, although few customers were in sight and the lobby was quiet. Signs on the windows and in the lobby reminded customers to wear masks and social distancing requirements, including the rule that no more than six guests can sit together.

MJR Digital Cinemas is expected to reopen all 10 Detroit subway locations on Wednesday (show times are listed on its website). According to a spokesperson, the Bloomfield Hills-based theater chain will have concessions to operate during its business hours.

The theater’s opening films include Monster Hunter, Fatale and The Croods: A New Age. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “News of the World” open on Christmas Day.

The theater recommends guests purchase tickets in advance on their website or through their mobile app. You can also book a private auditorium for up to 20 people at www.mjrtheatres.com/privateplus.

The Historic Howell Theater opens Christmas Day with the performance of “Wonder Woman 1984” at 7pm. Owner Tyler DePerro recommends guests purchase tickets in advance as capacity is limited. Since the concessions are closed during the movie, the theater offers takeaway concessions, including 14-ounce bags of theater popcorn.

The theater also offers private theater rentals, available from Christmas Day through January 7th.

Casinos were also allowed to reopen on Monday, but all three Detroit casinos will open on Wednesday.

Vicki Ingham, general manager of Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, told The Detroit News that the company is thrilled to reopen to league games and open bowling, although restricting concession sales would be challenging. After Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the new order on Friday, Ingham’s reaction was mixed. Your feeling is that companies are able to monitor themselves.

Even so, the alley was open at 4 p.m. on Monday and telephoned bowlers eager to return all day, she said.

Lisa Bishop of Redford, right, supports Corey Smith of Canton in the bowling shop in Vision Lanes, Westland on Monday.  Smith was the first customer in business when Michigan bowling alleys and movie theaters reopened on December 21, 2020.

Corey Smith called Vision Lanes shortly after the store reopened to make sure he could order new shoes, a ball, and a bag from the pro shop.

The total came to nearly $ 500, but it’s worth it when boastful rights are at stake in the group of friends he plays with in his spare time, said the 42-year-old from Canton.

Smith plans to return Christmas Eve with his new prey for a friendly but competitive tournament. His all-time best score is a 290; He shoots to beat that with a perfect 300.

“We’re over 40 years old so this is pretty much our only hobby,” he said. “It’s going to be really competitive.”

Zack Sisk couldn’t wait to get back to the bowling alley and has been going to Ohio and Indiana for the past few weeks while they were closed in Michigan.

That changed on Monday when the 16-year-old from Brownstown came to Vision Lanes to practice his ball stroke for tournaments. He has played bowling all his life and plans to play professionally one day.

“It feels great to be back despite all the restrictions,” said Sisk between throws. “I wish you weren’t there, but it’s all for security protocols and I get it.”

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Twitter: @bykaleahall

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Twitter: @JGrzelewski

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Dusty Kennedy