Coronavirus guidelines frustrate fun park owner

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A table placed near the entrance of Bananas Fun Park in Grand Junction offers customers hand sanitizers and disposable gloves. The nearby arcade remains closed, however, under state guidelines intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Business Times by Phil Castle)

Chris Burns remains committed to ensuring the safety of the guests at his Grand Junction fun park. But he’s also frustrated over what he considers the unfair application of rules intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

While Burns closed the arcade at Bananas Fun Park to follow state guidelines, he believes the facility is safer to visit than other businesses allowed to operate.

The issue is a significant one, Burns said, because the arcade is an important part of an operation that employs a staff of 70 and also offers an entertaining diversion for families who’ve been otherwise limited in what they can do in the midst of a pandemic. “I’m pretty emotional about all this stuff because I care so much.”

Burns reopened Bananas Fun Park on May 4 following a more than seven-week closure mandated under a series of state orders. Prior to reopening, the facility was sanitized and new practices were put in place. Use is limited to 30 percent of capacity, social distancing protocols are enforced and face masks are supplied to employees. Hand sanitizer stations are available for guests.

Burns said he follows best practices established by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

Burns said he was told he’d have to close the arcade at the fun park because of updated guidance from the state that included arcades and other indoor recreation centers among the businesses not yet permitted to open.

Burns complied, although he believes it’s safer to use the arcade than visit other businesses allowed to operate. “I’m frustrated as hell I can’t open up this facility.”

Burns said he designated an employee to wipe off the games at the arcade after each use. At other businesses, employees and customers routinely touch merchandise and surfaces that haven’t been similarly cleaned.

The closure and rules come at the beginning of what Burns said is the peak season for his business.

It’s an example, he said, of the rules that could made it difficult for small businesses to survive the coronavirus pandemic — especially those businesses deemed nonessential. Businesses provide jobs that enable employees to feed their families and pay bills. Tax revenues fund schools and government services, he said. “Every business is essential.”

Bananas Fun Park constitutes an important attraction, Burns said  — as well as diversion for people and families at a time when they need one.

Burns said he hopes to recoup at least some business in a new amenity — the domestic and craft beers, hard seltzers and wines he now serves adult guests.