SARTELL – Minnesota is moving the dial Wednesday to Phase III of “Stay Safe MN,” the state order implemented by Governor Tim Walz to manage the spread of COVID-19.

The shift will bring a host of changes to the daily operations of a wide variety of establishments, and will allow formerly shuttered businesses, such as bowling alleys, to operate with stringent occupancy limits.

“We were caught a little bit off guard, but we’re ready for it,” said Jason Mathiasen, owner of Great River Bowl and Partners Pub in Sartell. “We expected to be included in Phase Four (of the order), and we were kind of worried that it was going to be in late summer or even early fall. So, it was a pleasant surprise.”

Great River Bowl will reopen Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at 25 percent of capacity or less at one time. Partners Pub, adjacent to the bowling alley, will allow dine-in customers with a 50 percent capacity limit. Mathiasen says he and his employees have spent the last several months crafting a list of best practices to keep customers safe and socially distanced on both sides of the business.

“The procedures we had in place before (the shutdown) will stay in place,” he said. “The restaurant side of our business is heavily regulated already, so a lot of the cleanliness and sanitation processes are second nature to us.”

Mathiasen says bowlers will quickly notice a variety of operational changes.

“Bowling needs to be done with a reservation,” he said. “We’ll be checking in one group at a time. We’ll have one open lane between each group of bowlers, along with separate check-in and check-out areas. All the bowling balls will be already down on the lanes. We’ll have a variety of different weights and different finger sizes on each lane. So, you’ll be limited to what’s there, but if you need something that isn’t there, we’ll find it for you.”

“Whatever we need to do to keep people safe, and operate safely, that’s what we’ll do,” he added. “Keeping our customers and our staff safe – that’s what’s important to us.”

Mathiasen says staff clean and disinfect the building each morning, and multiple times throughout the day.

“We’ve also contracted with an outside company to come in on a regular basis with a new technology,” he said. “They use an electrostatic charge on the disinfectant and spray the whole building. It provides a type of wrap-around magnetic attraction to get behind handles, bottles, sinks, faucets – things like that.”

“So, our building is probably going to smell like a hospital,” he laughed.

Mathiasen expects a strong turnout Wednesday; he says customers have been reaching out on a regular basis, excited to find out when they’ll be able to lace up their bowling shoes.

“Every time there’s an announcement by the Governor, people call and ask, ‘do we get to come in yet?’’ he said. “And we say, ‘no, we’re still waiting, still waiting.’ We’ve gotten a lot of messages and emails. People are excited to come back and put a little bit of normalcy back into their lives.”