‘We’re broken down,’ bowling alley owner says after customers target staff because of mask policy

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WAUKEE, Iowa — Was it the words or the bowling shoes hurled at her that hurt most? Or was it the complete disregard for her family’s property when irate customers launched drink pitchers at her bowling alley’s front window? All of those outrageous responses hurt. It doesn’t really matter to Kristy Morse whether anything stings more than the rest. After these past weeks, they finally wore her and her husband down.

“It’s defeating. It’s bullying,” she said while standing in front of Warrior Lanes, which had just opened for the day on Monday.

Several hours earlier, Morse sent an email to the bowling alley’s list of supporters that explained her exasperation about what she and her staff had recently endured. She had hoped to continue requiring customers to wear masks for the next few weeks to give her family and staff enough time to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Some of her staff includes teenagers, who only this month became eligible for a vaccine.

This is Morse’s email:

Hi Friends,

  I need to start this email out with a deeply heartfelt I’M SORRY and a huge THANK YOU to all our loyal guests and dedicated staff members.  For the majority of our guests that respected our business’ decision to continue to require masks, we appreciate you so much!  You followed the rule, even when you didn’t want to, and helped us keep everyone safe. We have done our best, at great cost, but are waving the 🏳️white flag🏳️.

  This past 14ish days have been a challenge with all the new changes and recommendations from the CDC, IDPH and the Governor’s office regarding masks.  There has been good news, bad news, contradictions, science, professional and personal opinions, and it is impossible to know what is truly right and truly wrong.  Navigating our family and business through the unique circumstances of the past 15 months has been challenging and we know we are not alone.

  Through it all our family and employees have worked tirelessly to try to be a safe and bright spot for our guests and community.  We are forever grateful for the support that we have received from so many, and we wouldn’t still be here without it.  But the last 10 days have worn us all down, mentally, and emotionally. Our staff and family have been verbally abused and threatened, we have had things thrown at us and the bowling center has experienced acts of vandalism… all because we wanted everyone to respectfully wear a mask in our building.

  Our integrity has always been one of the most important values we prize.  We are open, honest and have done everything we could to maintain the ridiculously high standard of customer service that we have always been known for.  We have required our staff and guests to wear masks while inside our bowling center- not only to keep our community safe, but also to keep US safe.  We have been polite, kind and patient with visitors who disagreed with our requirement while being the targets of verbal abuse and threats. When other businesses around us were posting signs that masks were required, but not enforcing, it got even harder to police the rule- which we should not have had to do.  

  Despite our gut feeling (and we HOPE we are wrong about that feeling), we are removing our requirement that all guests ages 2 and over wear masks while in the building. However, we STRONGLY ENCOURAGE everyone to continue to wear a mask, especially in common areas and when social distancing isn’t possible (which is most of the time).  Our small space was not designed to be able to social distance our guests and we cannot pay the bills by keeping lanes open between groups. We cannot ask guests or employees if they are vaccinated but we are supposed to assume that anyone not wearing a mask is vaccinated.  This is a no-win situation.  The only thing we do know for sure, is that as business owners we cannot continue to subject our amazing team of hard workers and ourselves to the abuse we have all been receiving. We had hoped that we could ride out our mask requirement until our staff could be fully vaccinated, but that is another 2 weeks out.

  Warrior Lanes will continue to maintain the standard of cleanliness that you know and appreciate. We still have all the hand sanitizer stations available and will continue the cleaning & disinfecting procedures that we have always done.  We will continue to limit each lane to 5 guests to reduce congestion at the lanes. Gloves are still needed when selecting a clean house ball from our shelves to use.  Disposable food and beverage containers will still be used.  We will still have some lanes available for online reservations, but we have cancelled our plans to reopen our birthday party rooms for right now.  

Thank you for your understanding, patience and grace.  

Kristy, Brad & Zachary
Warrior Lanes, Waukee

Most customers had been supportive of her original plans for this month, she said. “I don’t want to alienate any of the good people. I don’t,” Morse said, “But I feel like we were forced to make this decision sooner than we wanted to.”

But because of the inappropriate behavior by a minority of people who came into the bowling alley, she is changing the business plan. “We’ve been called racist. I’ve had shoes thrown at me. We’ve had people take pitchers of beverages outside and throw them against the window. We’ve had video games broken. Things thrown down lanes that shouldn’t be thrown down lanes,” Morse said of what she and her staff experienced over the past two weeks.

The bowling alley will no longer require masks. But Morse hopes that people who aren’t fully vaccinated will respect others and voluntarily wear a mask. Either way, she will no longer ask people to wear one.

“It’s absolutely no win. I don’t like this decision at all. It breaks my heart to make this decision because I know it’s going to have an impact on a lot of people that need us the most. I had a grandma email us this morning,” Morse said.

She said the woman explained that her young grandson, who is too young to get vaccinated, may no longer be able to bowl if he would be exposed to unvaccinated people who don’t wear masks. “That broke my heart, too,” Morse said.

On Sundays–beginning this Sunday–Warrior Lanes will set aside 6-8 p.m. only for those customers who wear masks. Morse said that she will also find another time during the week, but earlier in the day, for families who have younger children to bowl with others who wear masks.

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