Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles chronicling the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and organizations in Oshawa.
NEB’s Fun World (NEB’s) reopened more than two months ago, on July 24, and has not had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic since.
But for 127 days NEB’s manager Jeff England was at home with his family, making sure they were safe and explaining to his two kids, ages 4 and 6, why the world had changed so quickly.
“It’s been a little challenging. The kids didn’t really understand what was going on they were upset they couldn’t see their family members for three months. And my wife is high-risk as well so there was a bit of added stress as well,” says England.
England, 34, is the fourth-generation manager of NEB’s, a bowling alley located at 1300 Wilson Rd. N., in Oshawa.
Although NEB’s has reopened, there’s a 50-person limit inside the bowling alley, not including staff. With only 50 people allowed in a 100,000 square foot building, England says layoffs were unfortunately necessary for the company’s financial security.
“We employ around 100 people. Unfortunately, we had to lay off around 90 so it was kind of sad. A lot of these people have been with us anywhere from a year to over 50 years,” says England.
According to Statistics Canada, from March to June an average of 485 businesses per month in Oshawa, including NEB’s, were forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since reopening in late July, NEB’s has implemented several safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
England says NEB’s has invested in things like sanitization foggers, misters, and plexiglass. They’ve also made masks mandatory, due to public health protocols, for everyone inside the building, introduced online bookings for customers, a scannable QR code that lets people see the menu, and curtains between bowling lanes.
For employees, daily temperature checks are required, and they appear to be working as there have been no positive tests from any NEB’s employee, according to England.
Before the shutdown, NEB’s had planned a major expansion including building a roller-skating track, laser tag, and the largest indoor playground in Canada.
Although it wasn’t easy, England says they were able to allow construction of the expansion to continue.
“It was a little bit difficult,” he adds. “We were able to continue during the shutdowns. It wasn’t easy, we had a lot of family working and things like that, but we all came together and got it done.”
England understands the nature of the second wave of COVID-19 hitting Ontario and although NEB’s has big plans for the future, he recognizes these plans may have to wait.
“As a forward-moving company, if there’s a second wave our forward plans will be put on hold and we’ll just have to hunker down until everything’s better,” says England.
The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is unclear at this point but England is taking a positive approach when thinking about the future of NEB’s. Although the bowling alley is seeing less customers right now, he feels there are better days ahead.
“Very optimistic. You can feel that the need is still there. You can feel that socializing is ingrained in humans and once we get past this and things get better, things will be good,” says England.