Today’s news:

Rich Hill bowlers question alley closing

A Richmond Hill bowling alley closed without advance notification to its customers late last month and forced bowlers to wait in line to retrieve their equipment.

Merrell Wreden, a spokesman for Virginia-based AMF Bowling Centers, the company that operated Van Wyck Lanes, said the facility closed "because the offer we got to sell the lease, in our judgment, was extremely attractive."

He also cited a "decline in revenue" at the bowling alley, although he would not say how much sales dropped off.

The closing comes at the same time another borough bowling alley, Woodhaven Lanes in Glendale, plans to shutter its doors May 18.

"It looks as if it's closing," said a Woodhaven Lanes employee, although she said nothing was officially announced by the alley's management. "I am telling most people to look at it as if it's closing on the 18th."

Protests were held last month at Woodhaven Lanes to help keep the alley afloat but its owner, Brunswick Corporation, said it likely could not keep it in business.

A longtime bowler at Van Wyck Lanes said the April 25 closing was done "without any notice to employees or bowlers."

"They put a fence around the property and locked bowlers' personal equipment inside," said Katherine Taylor, an East Elmhurst resident. "Most leagues had three more weeks to end their season, but AMF has not honored any of the contracts that the leagues have. They have offered no explanations."

Another bowler, Miriam O'Neill, said security guards surrounding the bowling alley allowed five people at a time to enter the center to pick up their belongings.

Wreden said the contract AMF signed when it sold its lease stipulated that the company had to end its operations immediately.

"We apologize for that and regret it," he said, noting that customers will be reimbursed for any bowling fees they paid in advance.

Van Wyck Lanes opened in 1960 and AMF has managed the bowling alley since 1996.

Wreden would not discuss the terms of the agreement, but said the lease's buyer indicated it is interested in building a clothing store on the property.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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