‘People have been eager’: More business reopenings lead to larger-than-expected crowds

Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, miniature golf courses, pools and Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations reopened Tuesday with a host of changes to promote social distancing and minimize the spread of coronavirus.

That included spaced-out exercise machines in gyms and fitness centers and occupancy limits on pools.

Social distancing measures created a line outside BMV offices on Roosevelt Boulevard in Middletown and Main Street in Franklin on the first day back open since March 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ohio BMV said all of its location will limit crowds to no more than half its capacity, cleaning work stations after each customer and only administering knowledge tests.

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“We will not be administering skill tests,” the state agency said on social media. “We will resume skills testing when we have a way to safely do so.”

Each location also will include employees using hand sanitizer, masks, plastic gloves and vision-screening sanitizer.

Ohio BMV encouraged patrons to "Get In Line Online" at www.tinyurl.com/getinlineonline.

Immortal Fitness, which opened last year in Hamilton, saw business that was “pretty consistent” throughout the day, according to operations manager Emily Hopton.

“Normally, it will taper off and it’ll drop down to three or four people in here, but we’ve had about 10-plus in here all day,” Hopton said just after 3 p.m. Tuesday. “People have been eager.”

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The 15,000-square-foot business worked in advance of the opening, adding new equipment and carrying out “almost a complete remodel,” she said.

Immortal Fitness is discouraging clients from lifting weights on equipment next to each other, but because much of the equipment could not be moved, it has posted rules online and throughout the building, Hopton said.

Besides social distancing, that also includes washing hands before working out and wiping equipment down before and after using it. Temporarily discontinued at the facility are its lost-and-found section, food offerings and water fountains, she said.

“We’re walking around a lot to make sure it’s being done, but it’s still a bit of a battle,” Hopton said.

Bowling returned to Pohlman Lanes & Family Entertainment Complex in Hamilton, which revised open bowling hours of noon to 10 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, noon to 11 p.m. Thursday and noon to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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Patrons are being asked not to enter the complex if they or anyone in their family has any COVID-19 symptoms, practice social distancing when using the restroom and wash hands thoroughly and frequently.

Not all facilities jumped at the chance to reintroduce the bowling. Eastern Lanes, a Middletown business since the early 1960s, said it “has not officially decided” when to do so in order to better understand the situation and assess how it can create a safe playing environment.

“The health and well-being of our customers and employees is our top priority,” said general manager Brian Garland. “Since the State of Ohio announced that certain non-essential businesses would have the opportunity to resume full business operations, we have been conducting a comprehensive review of city, state and federal operating guidelines and how they apply to our center. Until that review is complete and we are thoroughly satisfied with the results, we will remain closed until further notice.”

During its time closed to the public, the 36-lane center has focused on new methods of sterilization and deep cleaning of its entire 34,096 square-foot facility, Garland said. It also revamped and updated its operational processes and procedures “to best ensure the safety of its guests and employees,” he said.

Eastern Lanes continues to offer carry-out food from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and delivery service through Doordash.

According to the state’s reopening plan, some sports and sports-related activities were allowed to resume Tuesday. All sports will be able to resume meeting for practices and workouts, but only low- or non-contact sports like golf, softball, baseball, tennis and paddle sports could resume holding games and competitions.

Baseball action started a little after midnight Tuesday at West Side Little League complex on Eaton Road in Hamilton. The WSLL complex hosted two games that didn’t finish until after 2 a.m., including one that saw Lauren Johnson watching her son get back to playing the National Pastime.

“He’s definitely excited to get back out and playing because a 2-month hiatus for my kid, who plays three different sports all year long, he’s been like ‘What do I do?’” Johnson said.

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