Brooklyn’s Melody Lanes sees little reprieve from struggles caused by pandemic

Photo via NYC Guide

While bowling alleys in New York State got the official go-ahead to reopen their doors on Aug. 14, the owner of Sunset Park’s iconic Melody Lanes sees no end to the hard times, saying his business is “limping along” amid the pandemic. 

“You really can’t consider us open,” Gary Beshara said on Monday, the first day he was allowed to open.

Right before the pandemic hit the city, Melody Lanes had completed a $1.5 million renovation of the business’ interior, which is now getting very little use even as customers are welcomed back — largely due to stringent requirements that have shuttered every other lane, banned food and drink sales, and forced management to hang plastic sheets separating each group of bowlers.

With all those restrictions, along with customers’ fears of enclosed spaces, Beshara says it’s not even financially worthwhile to reopen — but he’s doing it to help his 30-person staff, some of whom have worked at the lane for decades, and includes local celebrities such as the philosophizing bartender Peter Napolitano

“I got a tremendous staff that’s been with me many years,” Beshara said. “I’m trying to be good to my staff, I’m trying to provide a service to my neighborhood.”

Still, the financial toll is weighing heavily on the 35-year staple of Brooklyn business. 

During the state-mandated closure, Beshara had racked up $110,000 in real estate taxes for the building at 37th Street and Fifth Avenue, while coughing up another $11,000 in electric bills — all while generating no revenue. 

Insurance costs have also hit the renowned alley hard, as Melody Lanes — like many other Empire State businesses — has received no help from their insurance company during the closure due to a clause in their policy that exempts coverage for business interruptions stemming from a virus, Beshara said. 

“There’s no business interruption,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “That’s another farce.” 

bill sponsored by a pair of Brooklyn state legislators in June would require insurance companies to cover the cost of operating losses during the pandemic — although the measure has yet to gain traction in the legislature. 

The one saving grace, Beshara said, was that he’d already paid off the value of the building — which has given a small sliver of life to the famed 26-lane joint. 

“I’m very fortunate that I don’t have a mortgage,” he said. “If I did have a mortgage I’d be bankrupt.” 

Melody Lanes [461 37th St. at  Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park, 718-832-2695, www.melodylanesny.com]. Open Sun–Thurs 10 am to 10 pm; Fri–Sat 10 am to midnight. Reservations required.

This story first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com.