Some businesses, while allowed to open, deem doing so unsafe, not financially beneficial

  • Ralph Semb and his son, Erik Semb, at the French King Bowling Center in Erving, which has been closed due to the pandemic. Though the bowling alley can open, with the social distancing rules and limits on capacity that it would have to observe, the Sembs say the income from operating probably wouldn’t be worth it. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Empty lanes at the French King Bowling Center in Erving, which has been closed since March. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2020 12:38:17 PM

In the slow business environment of the pandemic, several local businesses have determined that, even if they can reopen according to the state’s rules, it just isn’t financially worth it right now.

The People’s Pint in Greenfield, for example, totally closed for the foreseeable future last week, after having offered takeout since June.

It was a cautious way of trying to stay open, but owners found it wasn’t worthwhile. The takeout service was not consistently making enough money to be profitable, said co-owner Alden Booth.

Physically, The People’s Pint does not have enough space for socially distanced tables or outdoor seating, so takeout was the only option, Booth said.

“The Pint is a place to gather and talk and be social, and takeout is so far from that,” he said.

There were also health concerns. Several employees had said they were not comfortable returning to work so soon in the pandemic, and the restaurant hadn’t been able to find enough people to fill in for them, Booth said.

A reopening date has not been decided, though The People’s Pint continues to produce and sell beer. Optimistically, Booth said, the restaurant would like to reopen in September or October.

In the meantime, the restaurant will save money on utilities and other costs related to being open, which should make it possible to remain viable long enough to reopen, Booth said.

“We have so many regular customers, I think when we do reopen, people will support us,” he said. “It’s just, once we reopen again, what will business be like?”

Some other businesses have clearer expectations for their reopening.

The French King Bowling Center in Erving closed in March, expecting to be able to reopen within a few weeks, said manager Erik Semb. But instead it has been closed ever since, even though the state’s reopening rules would have made it possible to reopen earlier this month.

For one thing, summer is always a slow time for bowling, Semb said. And with the social distancing rules and limits on capacity that the bowling alley would have to observe, the income from operating probably wouldn’t be worth it, he said.

“Even at 40 percent (the capacity limit), I’d have to separate everybody, I’d have to put plastic up, and I’d have to pray that I do get 40 people all day, every day, just to pay the electric bill,” Semb said.

He expects to reopen this fall, when the weather cools down and air conditioning won’t be so expensive.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory in South Deerfield was also allowed to reopen earlier this month, but has waited out of caution.

“We just thought it would be safer to let things play out before making a decision,” said co-owner Kathy Fiore.

Magic Wings has been preparing to reopen by buying masks, hand sanitizer and Plexiglas dividers, Fiore said.

The owners still hope to open this summer, but do not feel that the facilities are safe enough yet, she said.

In the meantime, she said, they are trying to maintain some presence on their Facebook page, and are selling discounted admission passes.

“Literally from the day we closed down, March 17, we’ve had people calling us daily,” she said. “I think, at this point, our biggest problem, which is not a bad problem to have, is making sure everyone can get in in a safe manner.”

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-930-4231.

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