Business was brought to a standstill after COVID-19 struck in mid-March. It was only until June 1, when Washington County entered Phase 1 and many of these shuttered establishments could reopen with modifications.
Nonetheless, two local businesses on the SW Pacific Highway stretch – Tigard Bowl and the Joy Cinema – have yet to reopen since their closure on Mar. 16 despite having the ability to do so safely.
Both of the establishments are listed for a Phase 2 reopening, but it is unlikely that the county will move forward anytime soon. Washington County is grouped with the Portland Metro counties including Multnomah and Clackamas County and these counties will remain in Phase 1 until all three meet the requirements for Phase 2.
Mark Pearl – owner of Tigard Bowl – believes that the bowling alley could open more safely than many other businesses or restaurants listed for Phase 1.
“This is a lot cleaner than a casino, video game arcade or a gym like LA Fitness where everybody’s sweating and breathing heavily, but all those are allowed to be open. Going through Costco is more dangerous than [bowling here],” Pearl said. “The problem is, I can’t get anybody to look at what I’ve done.”
In their time closed, the bowling alley implemented a variety of ways to be reopen-ready and minimize contact between customers. On the small end, Tigard Bowl added lots of sanitization stations, COVID-19 caution signage, plastic screens at the front counters and larger 6’6” by 4’ screens between each pair of lanes to separate the parties.
Pearl has also set up a full routine and protocol for customers who utilize house equipment. From grabbing a pair of sanitized shoes to picking out a ball with a pair of disposable gloves, the bowling alley would sanitize each piece of equipment used after the customer(s) finished.
“There’s no reason I should have to lose my business when I can currently go to McMinnville to bowl; Kaiser, Silverton, Salem, anywhere I want. I can go all over the whole rest of the state to bowl except for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington County,” Pearl said. “Our bowlers from Tigard are driving to Salem so they can bowl. So what good does keeping these bowling alleys closed?”
Pearl has also been a part of an initiative organized by the Oregon State Bowling Proprietors Association which included 15 proprietors – two have since closed – in the tri-county area to exhibit the proprietors’ ready-to-open changes.
“And you know, I’m compliant; as much as I need to be to get my business open. I don’t care what they want us to do, that’s what we’ll do. I mean, we’re either going to be open in the next month, or we’re closing forever,” Pearl said.
The Joy Cinema has also found itself in a similar situation. Jeff Martin – current owner – believes he could easily implement needed protocols that could keep his customers safe.
“I think it could be pretty easy. We obviously wouldn’t let anyone come to work if they weren’t feeling well,” Martin said. “We could keep people further apart than a restaurant can and a lot of businesses who are open right now.”
Some of the changes Martin would implement include: keeping customers from grouping up in the lobby; spacing people apart in the theater; roping off certain rows of seats; and taking more time between showings to sanitize seats and armrests.
“We could fit 50 people quite easily in our theater and they wouldn’t be anywhere near each other. Our auditorium can hold nearly 400 people,” Martin said. Even with the large capacity, the theater rarely saw that many individuals throughout a single day before Mar. 16.
The theater took this situation and tries to make the best of it until their eventual reopening. The theater is currently open on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 7 p.m. selling popcorn, soft drinks and other concessions to their customers. The theater also hosts online watch parties for older Grindhouse movies on their Facebook page to keep in touch and have fun with their customers.
“Our regulars have been excellent about supporting us – buying popcorn, soft drinks, candy and that sort of thing. They’ve been really pretty amazing. If we didn’t have the kind of business that we do; having a nice personal connection that the people have a sort of affection for, I don’t know if we could stay in business,” Martin said.
Both of these businesses are still waiting for word to reopen and after closed down for nearly seven months. A community member has opened up a GoFundMe for Tigard Bowl, and you can learn more about how Joy Cinema is interacting with their community on their website.