Fri, 07 Aug 2020
THE owner of Thatcham's Lakeside Superbowl has described the Government’s last-minute decision to delay the planned reopening of bowling alleys as “disappointing” and estimates the business has already missed out on £500,000 of revenue.
Bob Rae, the managing director of BDZ Group – which acquired the alley in 2018 – said everything had been in place to welcome people back last Saturday.
But on Friday, less than 24 hours before bowling alleys across the country were due to reopen, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he was pushing it back by a fortnight to August 15.
Mr Rae, who owns a number of businesses in the Newbury area, including Japanese restaurant Arigato, praised the Government for its “unprecedented” level of financial support.
However, he urged a rethink over its position as to which businesses could access funding.
Currently, businesses with a rateable value above £51,000 – which include the bowling alley in Lower Way – are not eligible for a grant.
The rateable value determines the business rates a company must pay depending on the size and value of the property it occupies.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News on Tuesday, Mr Rae said: “I’ve been in business a long time and learned to roll with the punches over the years.
“It’s disappointing, of course, but we are all in the same boat. There’s not an awful lot you can do.
“We were all raring to go. We called 20 staff back from furlough and then came the announcement that it would be delayed.
“Within hours we were having to re-furlough those staff.
“You can imagine how disappointing that was.
“With Arigato, we’ve managed to stay open and continue trading throughout – we’ve been able to take advantage of the furlough scheme and we’ve been able to get a £25,000 grant.
“We’ve had a continuous stream of revenue there with takeaways and so on.
“But with the bowling alley, we’ve had to stay shut and on top of that we’ve had to continue paying rent and rates without being entitled to any support because the rateable value is £135,000.
“I think we need to get behind the Government and support what they are trying to do.
“It’s very difficult trying to save lives and also keep the economy going.
“The Government support on the whole has been unprecedented and we have to be grateful for that.
“Without that support we, and many other businesses, would be in serious trouble.
“But I want the Government to have a rethink as these sorts of business are falling through the cracks simply because their sites are too large.
“Bowling alleys have been probably the most deprived area of the hospitality industry.
“We’ve lost in the region of £500,000 in revenue.
“Everyone else – pubs, restaurants, hotels – have been able to go back or reopen in some form, but bowling alleys have not.
“Originally it was the middle of July, then August 1, now the latest date is August 15.
“Whose to say nearer the time that they won’t put it back again?
“I think we have to be prepared for that.”
When they do eventually get the all clear to reopen, Mr Rae said that every other lane at Lakeside Superbowl will be closed to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to.
Other safety measures will include customers wearing their own shoes, staff being temperature checked on arrival and a one-way system in operation throughout the building.
However, the upstairs children’s soft play area will remain closed until the Government has advised it is safe to reopen.