Bowling alley group Ten Entertainment ‘frustrated’ by tightening restrictions

The boss of bowling alley chain Ten Entertainment has said he is “frustrated” ahead of the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions amid fears the move will halt the recovery of UK hospitality firms.

Graham Blackwell, chief executive of the company, told the PA news agency he was annoyed by delays to the reopening of bowling sites and warned that new measures will be “another knock” to the sector.

Speaking a day after the Government announced a 10pm curfew for venues including bowling alleys, he said: “The rules will have a noticeable effect.

“It will not have as huge an impact on us as it will in bars, or some others, but we tend to get around 10% of sales from after 10pm.

“We’ve been encouraged since reopening so hopefully things will continue in a similar fashion, but sentiment is fragile.”

He added: “I appreciate how tough it must be for the Government to tackle this, but we are obviously frustrated that it has come to this.”

Mr Blackwell provided the update as the company, which runs 46 sites nationwide, revealed a dive in sales due to the pandemic.

Sales dived by 46% to £22.5 million or the six months to June 28, after the enforced shutdown of sites across the UK hammered its takings.

The group tumbled to a £5.1 million pre-tax loss for the half-year, falling from a £4.7 million profit in the same period last year.

Bowling alleys were among venues given the green light to reopen their doors from August 15, after the Government delayed original plans for an August 1 reopening.

The company said it believes it could also be impacted by the introduction of the rule of six, but Mr Blackwell remained optimistic about the company’s outlook.

“We do have some larger groups and it could particularly impact around Christmas time, with children’s parties, but people have largely returned in smaller groups, sorting this issue themselves,” he said.

“We’ve seen a positive reaction from people generally.

“We are optimistic but we’re also still hoping we can get support with a VAT reduction at bowling alleys, similar to what restaurants and pubs have seen.”