A fixture in the Twin Cities area for the past six decades, Fairway Lanes is closing down permanently, as announced on its Facebook page Thursday morning.
Fairway Lanes has been closed for the better part of the past six months, first starting on March 17 due to the COVID-19 restrictions on bowling alleys. It briefly reopened on July 16 after Lewis County reached phase three of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, but had to close again soon after when Gov. Jay Inslee reworked the phased approach and pushed bowling alleys into phase four.
That final blow proved too difficult to overcome, financially, said Fairway Lanes co-owner Steve Turner, who owns the alley along with his brother, Tim. The decision to close wasn’t just from a business aspect, Steve said, it was also due to family health concerns.
“We had an entire family decision that this was the time to move on for my brother and I and retire,” Steve said. “It was the best decision for our family to close permanently.”
Fairway Lanes is at least the second Washington state bowling alley to close due to the financial effects of COVID-19. The iconic family-run Glacier Lanes in Everett announced its permanent closure on Aug. 6 after 63 years in business.
Bowling alleys statewide have been awaiting new conditions for reopening from the Governor’s Office for weeks. A statewide ‘Bring Back Bowling’ rally, which Fairway Lanes participated in, was held on Aug. 8 to urge Gov. Inslee to move bowling alleys back into phase three. The Washington State Bowling Proprietors Association, which organized the rallies, sent out 750 emails to the governor and state senators as of Aug. 12.
In a harsh coincidence, Gov. Inslee announced just hours after Fairway Lanes reported its closure that bowling alleys would be allowed to reopen under certain guidelines. Bowling is now allowed in both phases two and three, with only league play and league play practice. Two bowlers are allowed per game and no spectators can be present.
Steve said he’s pulling for the rest of the bowling alleys in the state.
“With a little luck, hopefully, more bowling alleys will be able to weather the storm versus closing,” Steve said.
The Turner brothers have owned Fairway Lanes for 16 years, first purchasing it in 2004 when it was still named Fairlanes Bowling Center. The previous owner, Dennis Kostick, had owned it for nearly 40 years. The 18-lane bowling center, which was built in 1958, has brought many memories to the Turners over the years; some good, some bad, Steve said.
One of the earliest and best decisions was rehiring longtime manager Gene Jonas, a Lewis County Bowling Association Hall of Famer. Jonas, who passed away in 2018, had moved to Port Angeles for four years before the Turners were able to persuade him to return and run the alley again after they purchased it.
“That was one of our early key successes because he was the connection to the community,” Steve said.
One of the not-so-good memories was the bowling alley being ravaged during the Hanukkah Eve storm in 2007, which brought gale-force winds and historic floods to Lewis County. Fairway Lanes suffered $650,000 worth of damage and was forced to close for nine months while attempting to rebuild.
“We’ve had some very highs and some very lows,” Steve said. “Then the COVID-19 hit and that was a challenge unseen and hard to put a grasp on how to fix it."
The Turners plan to market Fairway Lanes as a bowling center and hope they can find a group that will keep it as such, rather than turning the space into something else. The center is fully-equipped to handle COVID-19 guidelines when bowling alleys are finally allowed to reopen as the Turners have updated it with sanitizing stations, plastic partitions and hands-free bathroom fixtures. Plus, it has a loyal following of longtime league participants.
“The equipment and everything there is intact — and bowlers,” Steve said.