On Saturday at noon, Williamsburg bowling alley The Gutter re-opened after an Ebola scare forced its closure last Thursday morning. Gutter owner Todd Powers and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams shook hands and held an informal press conference at the alley, before Adams himself bowled two frames.
"Brooklynites should feel self-assured and relaxed to know that, number one, this disease is not something you catch like a common cold," Adams said.
The eight-lane alley underwent an extensive disinfectant cleaning on Friday after Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer visited and bowled at on Wednesday, Oct. 22nd. It still smelled lightly of bleach as Adams reassured reporters that there was nothing to fear—not only at The Gutter, but across Brooklyn and all of New York City.
"People have a right to be cautious and concerned," Adams said, "but that fear should not stymie them to go on with their lives." The Borough President praised Mayor Bill de Blasio's organizing efforts since Spencer's Ebola case was identified Thursday, and stressed that the risk of the virus spreading to others was extremely low, if not non-existent.
Spencer, a member of Doctors Without Borders who had been working to treat Ebola victims in Guinea, visited The Gutter for roughly three hours last Wednesday night (you can see the full timeline of his movements here). The next morning, with symptoms of a fever and fatigue, Spencer was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he tested positive for the deadly virus and was placed in isolated intensive care.
Adams wasn't The Gutter's only patron for long. Rafiq Ali Ladhani, of South Williamsburg, stopped at the bowling alley's bar at 12:30 p.m., ordering a beer and challenging Adams to a game of pool. A grinning Adams accepted, and the two swapped stories of their lives in Brooklyn between friendly barbs. "It's one of the things I've learned in the 13 years I've lived here: New Yorkers are really resilient," Ladhani said.
"You're just not going to get Ebola from this," Ladhani added, gesturing at the bar and booths before taking a long sip of his beer.
The Gutter's management received an all-clear from city Health Department inspectors Thursday, but hired Bio Recovery Corp to thoroughly sanitize the entire premises as an extra precaution. "We chose to do more because we wanted to make sure that everybody knew that we worked hard to ensure that they were safe," Powers said. “We lost two nights of business, but all that doesn’t mean anything. To make sure everybody's safe is what really is important to me and everybody here."
Those two nights of closure axed multiple music performances that had been scheduled at The Gutter as a part of CMJ, and the entire ordeal has made some uncertain about the bar and bowling alley's future prospects. Powers, though, was defiantly positive yesterday as he reopened and dismissed any suggestions that his business would have to fight any lengthy Ebola stigma.
“We’ve been getting so much support over Facebook and through different ways," he said yesterday. "Our regular customers are waiting for us to open so that they can come back and show their support. I think it’ll be a normal Saturday night, if not more.”
The rest of The Gutter's staff was also eager to return to business as usual, and showed no signs of worry over Ebola or its public stigma.
"I've gotten nothing but positive reactions from the staff. I did everything I could to ensure everything was safe," Gutter general manager Joanna Matyunas said as she leaned against the bar, watching Adams and Ladhani's pool game. Matyunas's main concern yesterday was getting The Gutter's bowling leagues back on schedule and seeing familiar regulars back and rolling on the lanes.
"I feel great," Powers said, waving to Adams as he and his staff left the bar, their photo-op fulfilled. "We did everything—we did way more‐than what we needed to do. The place is safe."
Encouraged by The Gutter's staff and all he'd seen and heard, this reporter went to the counter and paid for a pint of beer, bowling shoes, and a lane for bowling. It was the first full game played at a "post-Ebola" Gutter, and also happened to be one of the best games I've ever bowled in my life. I went back and paid for another, and then another, before I left.