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State bowling association suing Pritzker over COVID-19 restrictions in Lee County Court

DIXON – The Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association has joined the ranks of those suing Gov. JB Pritzker over what it calls his “unconstitutional and improper” exercise of authority to issue consecutive emergency declarations.

Restore Illinois is the governor’s road map for lifting restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic; Phase 4, which took effect June 26, allows bowling centers a maximum occupancy of 50 people, regardless of the size of the facility.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Lee County Court, asks the judge to issue a restraining order prohibiting the state from enforcing the governor’s executive order and to rule it invalid.

The governor’s successive executive orders caused its members “tremendous emotional and economic hardship” during the past several months, the Lincolnwood-based ISBPA said in a news release announcing its suit.

“Frankly, Gov. Pritzker has thrown a gutter ball on this one,” R. William Duff Jr., executive director of the ISBPA, said in the release. “Even medical experts agree that bowling is not a highly dangerous activity with regard to COVID-19 spread.

“The governor’s ill-advised policies have resulted in staggering losses for our members, and these unconstitutional moves threaten thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of tax revenue.”

Illinois has about 270 primarily independent family bowling centers that employ about 5,000 people, buy about $65 million in goods and services annually, and participate in community charity events and fundraisers, Duff said.

Duff also noted that businesses such as gyms, waxing centers, tattoo parlors, retail stores, nail salons, restaurants, and other businesses are allowed to have up to 50% of their capacity, which “makes no sense, is not based on science and needs to be addressed by the court.”

Bowling centers have instituted safety measures such as maintaining at least one empty lane between groups of bowlers, doing daily temperature and wellness checks of employees, sanitizing equipment and reducing touch points. Many also have installed floor markings, plastic shields and signage to enforce social distancing, and masks can be worn while bowling, Duff said in the release.

In addition, ISBPA bought $40,000 worth of personal protective equipment to distribute to bowling centers, he said.

“While we tried to work cooperatively to find a solution, the state was unwilling to work toward a fair solution, so we were left with no choice but to seek a court order,” Duff said.

“We believe that we have both the facts and law on our side, and we look forward to presenting our case to the court.”

When asked about the lawsuit in Tuesday morning’s briefing with reporters, Pritzker said:

“There are challenges that we all face in this world of a COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we’re trying to do is to measure what things are less dangerous that we can allow more capacity for, and what things are more dangerous, and … I leave that to the scientists and the doctors to make decisions about.

“There’s nothing political about a focus on one industry or another, it’s just all about, can we maintain safety and health guidance in these kinds of settings, and that’s all.”

Pritzker also noted that of the many state and federal suits filed challenging his authority in these matters, when ruling, all but one court has sided with him.

The ISBPA chose to file in Lee County because of Alan Nordman, owner of Plum Hollow Lanes in Dixon and a member of the association, Duff said in an email to Sauk Valley Media.

“He’s representative and symbolic of our great members across Illinois – from Chicagoland to Downstate,” Duff wrote. “This lawsuit could be filed in any Illinois jurisdiction, but our member in Lee County is symbolic of the important role bowling centers play in the civic life of communities.”

Plum Hollow Family Center reopened June 26 with many COVID-19 safety features in place, including only allowing the use of every other alley, plastic sneeze shields, intensified cleaning schedules, and spacing out tables and game machines in the arcade.

Nordman, past president of the association and a member of a task force set up to help members navigate the restrictions, said “the 50-person limit is really the fundamental issue.”

He said he is committed to keeping patrons safe, and in fact is in a high-risk group himself, but he runs a facility that is more than 31,000 square feet and has 14 rooms, so the 50-person limit, compared to say, a 300-capacity restaurant that now can serve 150 people, simply makes no sense.

“It’s all about the equity in how [the restrictions] are being applied.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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