Operators of an Orillia bowling alley fighting to stay afloat during pandemic

COVID has turned the Rainey's dream purchase into a nightmare

Pins and needles for the owners of Orillia Bowl as pandemic restrictions bite into the finances of Andy and Kathy Rainey, which has left the couple wondering if they can keep their business open.

They purchased the 18-lane facility in 2013.

Andy is a life-long bowler, and Kathy’s parents used to own a bowling alley.

Andy agreed the couple’s dream purchase has turned into a nightmare because of COVID-19.

Under current restrictions, only 10 bowlers at a time are allowed inside the 17,000 square foot facility.

The Rainey’s did qualify for a rent program to help cover costs in the early days of the pandemic, but when a second one was put in last August, Andy told Barrie 360 they missed out because the rules excluded the landlord and they own the building.

The Rainey’s have a sprinkler system business in Collingwood that they have been pulling money from to keep the doors open at Orillia Bowl.

“We’ve been losing upwards of $20,000 a month out of our own pockets trying to keep this place going,” Andy tells Barrie 360.

He said they are $200,000 more in debt today than they were at the start of this pandemic.

“I am here. It’s just how long before you stop and I can’t do this anymore. The stress levels are unbelievable.”

Safety protocols at the five-pin alley include contact tracing, cleaning of all stations and bowling balls so they are ready for the next person. To bowl, you must book an appointment.

There is no shortage of people wanting to bowl. In fact, Andy acknowledges he is almost fully-booked through this week. While that may sound like a windfall for the business, Andy points out because they are limited in terms of the number of people allowed inside the facility, they are losing customers.

He gets financial help from the government to cover off a portion of salaries for his employees, but Andy did the math and said he would still be losing money even if he started to pay his staff. For now, Andy and Kathy take care of Orillia Bowl while their son looks after their sprinkler business.

Andy said he has been calling all levels of government seeking answers to his questions about what other assistance might be available to a business like his.

“Nobody was answering and nobody was helping us,” said Andy. “From the City of Orillia to our provincial MPP and to our federal MP, nobody could tell us why we didn’t qualify for certain programs.”

“I wish government was more accessible. Nobody is accountable.”