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Michigan bowling center owners sue state for lost compensation from COVID shutdowns

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Five bowling alley owners aresuingthe state of Michigan over money lost from being closed by state orders concerning COVID-19.

Michigan bowling alleyswere closed for most of the past year. Because of that, attorney David Kallmansays his clients deserve to be compensated.

“If the state is going to make these kinds of announcements and orders and shut people down,” says Kallman, “[The state has] to realize then they have to step up and compensate for it.”

Kallman says he’s filing the federal lawsuit this week.  He did not say how much the owners of the five bowling centers are seeking in the lawsuit.   But Kallman says those loses are “well over seven figures.”

A spokeswoman for Governor Gretchen Whitmer declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A spokesman for Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office would only say they have not been served with the lawsuit.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Even when Michigan bowling alleys have been allowed to operate during the pandemic, their owners have been forced to limit the number of bowlers and take other precautions to limit the potential spread of COVID-19

“If one is filed, we will review and discuss it with our clients and respond in court,” says AG office spokesman Ryan Jarvi.

Under the current state order, bowling centers are allowed to open for single household or individual activity. Also under the new order, indoor non-contact sports, which would include bowling competitions, are permitted.

Scott Bennett is the executive director of the Independent Bowling and Entertainment Centers Association.  

He says between five and ten percent of Michigan bowling centers closed during the pandemic will likely not reopen as restrictions are lifted.    

“I don’t know of any other business that can go eight, nine months without any cash flow and still be able to pay their bills,” says Bennett. 

Bennett adds many that do reopen may not be able to stay open long. He describes bowling as a primarily fall and winter sport, meaning participation and revenues decline in the spring and summer.

Bennet says up to half of the state’s bowling centers may be forced to close this spring whether they are allowed to operate or not.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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