WARMINGTON: Ontario tries to save some businesses from the gutter

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STREETSVILLE — Under new COVID-19 Omicron variant restrictions, it’s not just bowlers trying to stay out of the gutter.

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Owning a bowling alley during a pandemic has left this family facing that potential for almost two years.

“If you would have told us two years ago at Christmastime that we would be closed for 17 months, we would not have believed it,” said Tony Bonora, of Streetsville Bowl. “We were packed and booked with hundreds of parties.”

Now, thanks to new provincial capacity rules ordering indoor establishments at 50%, the legendary five-pin lanes on Queen St. S. were half-full on Sunday.

“It’s better than being closed,” said Tony, who has been running the popular business for 40 years and now is passing the business to his son, Jonathan.

Rent for a bowling alley is not cheap — with or without taxpayers’ emergency help.

But throw in the uncertainty of when you can be open and how many customers you can accommodate, and suddenly a business known for fun can be anything but.

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Tony and Jonathan never want the customers to worry about such things.

“They are here to enjoy themselves,” noted Tony.

So before Omicron came along a few weeks back, Streetsville Bowl was ordering food and drink to prepare for dozens of Christmas parties.

Then came the new variant: “Just like that, 15 parties were cancelled.”

Even with the extra food on order and staff called in for the party season, they didn’t know if bookings would come to fruition until people actually showed up.

“It’s understandable: people get nervous when they hear 4,000 new cases,” said Tony.

Even though they have never had one case of COVID-19 onsite, in each case of cancellation, they took the financial hit, returning money to the families and teams which made the bookings.

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They hope their customers return after the pandemic. It doesn’t pay the rent but goes a long way in building goodwill.

The Bonora family also hasn’t turned away anyone who had their bowling parties fall apart.

“We had one set up with 16 kids that ended up with five, but we said, ‘Let’s put on the party anyway,’” said Tony.

Many are doing what they can to not let Omicron win.

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“The kids need to have exercise and fun and not always be worrying,” said Mila Karpova, who went ahead with her Christmas party for eight kids and their parents.

The same goes for the Erindale Spitfires Under 10 hockey team, whose members were bowling after their afternoon practice was cancelled.

This is the spirit we should embrace.

Premier Doug Ford should take fresh advice from some new advisors instead of the usual science and political players.

He deserves full marks for trying to move forward cautiously and not heed those shouting for more lockdowns.

“Doug is in between a rock and a hard place,” said Tony.

Locking everything down over a variant with few deaths and reportedly less severe than other variants would be as unproductive.

You can’t score a strike or perfect game if you are not in the game, and small businesses need the same advocacy as big corporate players to stay out of the gutter.

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