A bowling alley that has been a pillar of a Newcastle community for almost 60 years has warned that it could be forced to shut down again.
Bosses at The Bowl on Westgate Road say the venue has been pushed to the brink of closure, blaming 10-week roadworks outside its front door.
It has been a turbulent couple of years for the bowling alley – with the former MFA Bowl closing in 2018 before being relaunched in September last year.
The business was then put into liquidation this summer having fallen victim to the coronavirus lockdown, but the facility was rescued yet again and then reopened on October 1 having been taken on by another new owner.
But the latest revival could be short-lived, with management reporting a severe drop in trade that they blame on the roadworks – another blow on top of the losses still being suffered due to Covid restrictions.
General manager Paul Ryder says many people presume that the alley is still shut because of the major engineering works and fencing directly in front of it, with only one very small sign put up by Newcastle City Council to state that businesses are open as usual.
He estimates the roadworks are costing the bowling alley between £2,000 and £3,000 a week, which could be fatal at a time when revenues are already down.
Mr Ryder, who has been a fixture at the leisure venue for around 20 years, said: “Lots of people have said the same thing to me, that they didn’t think we were still open.
“Only the tiniest of signs has been put on the fencing saying that businesses are open as usual, but you can’t see it unless you have stopped your car right in front of it.
“For a business that is struggling anyway because of the Covid situation, this is another blow that could push us into closing.”
He added that the bowling alley, which first opened in 1963 and employs 14 people, is “part of the community, part of the West End” and deserving of support from city council bosses to prevent it shutting.
Half of the site’s 16 lanes are currently shut to allow for social distancing, groups of mixed households are not allowed in under the North East’s current Tier 2 restrictions, and it has to close at the 10pm curfew.
Mr Ryder said the business was totally unaware of the roadworks, which are there to allow new paving and traffic lights to be installed, and that it was “ridiculous” that they are happening now rather than during the lockdown earlier this year.
He has urged the city council to help out by erecting a large banner around the roadworks to promote the surrounding businesses and to provide financial support.
Local Conservative Party campaigner Connor Shotton has also petitioned council leader Nick Forbes to intervene urgently, saying the “unacceptable” situation was “not something that can be placed on hold”.
The council said it is “waiting on further information” on new grants to support businesses through Covid-19, but will install new signs.
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “Improvement works are taking place on Westgate Road to improve road safety and crossing facilities at this busy junction. The works were originally due to take place earlier this year, but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Prior to starting work on 21 September, we wrote to nearby residents and businesses and included contact details of the site manager if they had any concerns or queries.
“In order to maintain safety for our workers, and the public, sections of pavements and road need to be closed off at different times, with safe walkways provided and access to businesses maintained at all times.
“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused during these works. We will install additional signage to inform passers-by that businesses are open as usual.
“We fully understand the challenges during these difficult times with many businesses forced to close and we are here to offer advice and support to local businesses.
“The council administered £62 million in grants to local businesses as part of the first round of business support grants and we are waiting on further information on new grants available to support our traders during these difficult times.”