Closed for months due to pandemic, community staple West Seattle Bowl reopens to limited capacity

Under Governor Inslee's reopening plan amid the pandemic, more businesses are deciding to open their doors. It's welcoming news for many people just wanting to get out of quarantine since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic over a year ago. 

West Seattle Bowl has been a part of the community since 1948, but they've never had to close down for months-on-end like this. On Thursday, the bowling alley opened its doors for the first time since March.

For bowler Brian Nilson, bowling runs in the family.

"My parents are former competitive bowlers in Seattle and I'm just happy to carry on their legacy," he said.

But he couldn't do that for several months because of the pandemic. For many people, bowling is a fun time. But for Nilson, it's much more than that.

"It's totally my extended family outside of my personal family. We all have different families in life and this is a huge part of my life that I've been missing for 250 days," he said.

This was the first day back for Nilson and other bowlers in West Seattle.

"First day back, loving it. I get back to my gym. I can get back exercise. I can burn some of this COVID weight," he said.

And he couldn't wait to get to the lanes.

"I made sure to be here 15 minutes beforehand. I showed up knocking on the front door to get in and I just wanted to be back to what I enjoy," said Nilson.

For general manager Jeff Swanson, he was excited too.

"We were closed for 250 days since March of last year. So, we're excited to be back serving the West Seattle community," said Swanson. "It was a mad rush of messages, texts, and Facebook. People were excited to hear that they could come back and spend their time here," said Swanson. 

Bowling however won't be like it was pre-pandemic. Places like bowling alleys will be limited to just 25 percent capacity. According to Swanson, more protocols will be added to keep bowlers safe.

"On a normal league night, we would have all 32 lanes going with four or five people per lane," said Swanson. "We're mandated to two per lane and for our center, we're doing two every other lane some nights to allow for 11-to-12 foot distance."

Cleaning will also be increased.

"We're spraying the bowling bowls down after every use, as well as the tables and countertops," said Swanson.

For Nilson, the reopening means a lot for so many people.

"Keeping bowling open is extremely important for the health of youth bowlers, but also our elderly generation because it's hugely important for their physical and mental health," he said.

Check the West Seattle Bowl website for hours. According to Swanson, bowlers can reserve lanes ahead of time, but 8 lanes will be available for walk-in customers.