Nicola Craggs and her family have owned Barnsley Bowl, based on Carlton Road, for the last 16 years but she admits this is the hardest time the leisure venue has faced during that time.
She told the Chronicle: “I feel that it was right that we were closed in the first lockdown and the furlough scheme has been a lifeline for us.
“We were then told that we were able to open on August 1 so we got everything ready to ensure that we were Covid-safe, PPE and stock was replenished and we spent money on new till software to make sure that we could run the Eat Out To Help Out scheme correctly.
“We found out at lunchtime on July 31 in an announcement that we weren’t allowed to reopen it was cruel and grossly unfair to make such a late call on something so vitally important.”
As the bowling alley was only able to reopen its facilities in the middle of August, they benefited from just two weeks of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme something they had prepared heavily for.
Currently, all 39 staff at the leisure complex are furloughed, but Nicola has noted several ‘inconsistencies’ between the government and local authority rules and claims the reputation of bowling alleys have been tarnished during the pandemic.
“I believe that a feeling has been created that bowling isn’t safe and it’s tarnishing our reputation we are Covid-safe,” she added.
“There is full ventilation in the area and everything is regularly sanitised with all staff wearing PPE.
“With the introduction of the tier systems, we found operating in tier 2 was manageable, but in no way covered our operating costs.
“However, with the move into tier 3, this made it financially unviable.
“The government told people to only go out if essential and keep journeys to a minimum, yet I was told to remain open - so is bowling essential?
“We’ve been following the guidelines but there’s no consistency between the government and the local authority’s rules there needs to be huge clarity on this.”
Heading in to Christmas and the the new year, Nicola is hopeful that trade will pick up and has already seen a number of bookings for that period.
“Hopefully when we come out of lockdown we don’t come back into tier three because it’s untenable for us to carry on,” she added.
“Also, critical business and employment decisions have been made based on government promises, for example in July we were all told that we would get £1,000 for every worker we kept on our payroll until the end of January 2021, but this job retention bonus has been scrapped with the extension of furlough.
“This has caused turmoil when forecasting financial projections.
“All these factors and lack of financial support are casting a shadow over businesses longevity.”
Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central, said: “I have been in regular contact with Nicola, working closely with her and the team at Barnsley Bowl to ensure they have all the information they need to access critical financial support but I know just how tough 2020 has been for her and her industry.
“Our own region has faced several different iterations of lockdown in the last month alone, leaving employers constantly trying to catch up with ever changing restrictions.
“What we now need is for the government to give leaders in the north the powers and resources required to protect our people and our economy and empower those with fingertip knowledge of our area, to steer us through this crisis.”