DALLAS — When the Starlite Lanes announced on its Facebook page it was open Monday, it was really no surprise the Sonday family were there within the hour.
Mike and Renee Sonday were excited Starlite Lanes was back open, as they have a long history at the center — they met there 27 years ago in high school.
“It’s excellent,” Mike said. “It looks really good. I like what they’ve done with the bar. We’re glad they could open back up.”
General manager Colleen Sargent-Diarmit said the alley’s owners, Darrell and Lola Cooper, have had to jump through some hefty hoops to comply with state guidelines to reopen, twice, during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Considering it was shut down for six weeks the first time last March, then they had to pivot and change everything, deal with even more complications,” Sargent-Diarmit said. “There’s been a lot of expense. Darrell and Lola have spent countless hours and money pivoting to meet government guidelines. Darrell spent 13 hours just last Thursday alone getting ready to reopen. It takes dedication and love for this business.”
Starlite Lanes originally closed last March for about three months at the outset of the pandemic then were forced to close again Nov. 17, after the COVID-19 numbers spiked across the state and Gov. Kate Brown called for a two-week pause in business operations.
“It was a long two weeks,” Sargent-Diarmit said.
Since then, the governor has allowed gyms and entertainment venues in extreme risk counties to reopen to 24 people indoors, six per four separate spaces. Sargent-Diarmit said the Coopers modified the 12 lanes to accommodate bowlers in separate spaces.
In addition, they’ve installed four video lottery terminals in their renovated bar area, refurbished the pro shop and equipped an outdoor dining tent. Sargent-Diarmit said the tent was necessary because they’re still not allowed to have any indoor dining or drinks.
“You can’t even have a glass of water,” she added.
However, even an ice storm couldn’t keep them closed, again, for very long. Sargent-Diarmit said they lost power late Friday but it returned by 5:30 p.m. Saturday. She added Darrell said to open to those without power and at their peak, the alley had 17 bowlers in out of the cold.
“Bowlers are a giant family. They’re known across the county as one, big family,” Sargent-Diarmit said. “It’s exercise, and it is, and there’s a social aspect of it. Seniors have not been able to get together. We got so many emails and text messages saying, ‘We miss so much,’ and ‘How’s it going?’”
Sargent-Diarmit said youth programs have missed out on the Starlight Lanes closures, too.
“It is one of the only youth bowling in the area. Kids have missed out on high school tournaments. Graduating seniors missed out altogether. Little kids, who are home schooled, used to look forward coming with mom and dad on Saturday nights and eating our curly fries.”
The Coopers plan to restart leagues, as long as members remain at under capacity.
Sargent-Diarmit said with such a ginormous building, it’s not hard to keep bowlers six-feet away from each other and easy to get them to come in, even with the new guidance, because they love bowling so much.
Mike Sonday agreed.
“I’m impressed that Darrell has done what he’s had to do to stay open,” Sonday said. “Honestly, we’re just glad to be able to come in and support them while having some fun.”
For updates to operations and promotions, follow Sargent-Diarmit’s posts on their website starlitelanesdallas.com or on Facebook.