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Striking out Bowling alley owner urges Government to 'put an end to the madness' after being told to close

Gardaí called to the alley on Tuesday after getting a query from an anonymous caller about whether it should be open.

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John Carroll, proprietor of Cosmic Bowl, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photo: Tom O'Hanlon

John Carroll, proprietor of Cosmic Bowl, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photo: Tom O'Hanlon

John Carroll, proprietor of Cosmic Bowl, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photo: Tom O'Hanlon

A bowling alley owner has called on the Government to “put an end to the madness” after he closed the doors of his premises following a complaint by a member of the public.

John Carroll, who runs the Cosmic Bowl in Tullamore, Co Offaly, questioned why cinemas and gyms were allowed to open, while arcades and bowling alleys must stay shut.

The Cosmic Bowl had been closed since last October, but Mr Carroll decided to reopen on Saturday because he was under the impression bowling alleys could trade.

However, gardaí called to the alley on Tuesday after getting a query from an anonymous caller about whether it should be open.


“To be honest, nobody knows whether they’re coming or going in business,” Mr Carroll told the Irish Independent.

“We opened on Saturday as last year we were classed the same as cinemas and swimming pools, but we appear to have fallen into some hole somewhere over the last nine months. Between last summer and October, we ended up in no man’s land.

“I don’t blame the gardaí as they were just doing their job, but even they were confused about whether we had the right to be open. They phoned me back after a couple of hours about a subsection in the legislation and they had to make me aware of it.

“They said that if I opened up the next day they might have to take further action. On those grounds, I closed the business and cancelled my bookings.”

Mr Carroll was operating the alley at 25pc capacity, with no more than 25 people bowling at any one time. Teams also had to stick to pods of five.

“The last announcement was all about hospitality and pubs, but our industry has been completely forgotten as we’re a niche area,” he said.

“We will once again be left high and dry. There’s people out there who want to keep this country closed and have nothing better to do than complain about businesses trying to open.”

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Before reopening, Mr Carroll had to find a new insurance company because his previous insurer quit the market in April. He paid for a 12-month policy last June, but was closed for 10 months of the year.

“We’re back in that cycle again now having paid an insurance premium but having no idea when we may reopen.”

Mr Carroll said his staff were “desperate” to get off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and return to work. He said vaccine passes would prove problematic because the majority of his customers were teenagers and young people.

“I’m not going to tell students they can’t come in if they don’t have a vaccine.

“There’s too many grey areas at the moment.”

A Garda spokesperson said bowling alleys, soft play areas and amusement arcades fell under regulation 12 of the Health Act.

“Regulation 12 provides restrictions on the ‘carrying on or provision of certain business or services’. Schedule 2 provides a list of businesses or services to which regulation 12 applies, which includes inter alia bowling alleys, amusement arcades, soft play areas and other indoor children’s play areas.”

The regulation states that members of the public are not permitted access to a premises in a relevant geographical location where a business or service specified in schedule 2 is carried out or otherwise provided.

“It is the responsibility of each business operator to ensure that they are operating in compliance with public health regulations.”

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