I can’t believe we have reached this point but here we are. The landlord (BF Saul/Saul Centers) has backed us into a corner and we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves and White Oak Bowling Lanes. White Oak Bowling Lanes has been a staple of the community since 1959 with many of our customers being long time return customers. Many people such as myself have had birthday parties there, met life long friends, met their eventual spouse, worked there, or just stopped by for a night out. White Oak Bowling Lanes has been a place many would consider a home away from home. Here is our story:
The week leading up to Labor Day weekend we were hit by Tropical depression Ida. That Thursday we noticed water coming in from the floor behind our bowling machines (the lowest point in our center). We immediately made our landlord and insurance company aware of the situation as we knew this was a big problem. Our insurance company denied the claim as the water came through the floor; therefore, was considered a building issue that needed to be resolved by the landlord. Since Labor Day weekend was around the corner, our rep from the landlord along with her boss were on vacation and out of the office so we dealt with a back up to a back up. He stopped by to view the damage and recommended that we do everything we can to remediate the problem until our contacts from the landlord were back in the office.
Over the weekend we assembled a team of friends to try to extract the water as all the remediation companies were too busy to come out until Monday at the earliest. We spent all weekend carrying buckets of water out of the back to try to contain/fix the problem. No matter how much water was extracted, more just poured in to cover the work we just did. The remediation companies we hired worked all week to extract the water but again, the water just kept coming in. All of these expenses at this point have come out of our pockets.
The landlord launched their own investigation and found a pit that was completely bolted and sealed in the affected area. When their plumber opened up this pit they discovered a sump pit but no sump pump. They immediately turned the blame on us saying that we removed the sump pump and the reason this disaster happened was due to our negligence. We have owned the space for the previous 3.5 years and the owner, George Sloan, previously worked there for 15 years prior to buying the center and never knew of this pit. When we asked the previous owner, Ralph, who owned it the 42 years prior, stated that he didn’t know about the pit either and had never been in it.
As time went on, an obvious mold issue was present. As the odor from the mold became worse and many customer complaints came in, we decided to bring in a company to test the air quality to make sure we were operating in a safe environment. The test came back that we had elevated mold levels and people could get sick, particularly the elderly and immunocompromised. We felt it was in the best interest of everyone to close the lanes while we dealt with the logistics of this problem as we did and do not want people to get sick in our bowing center.
The landlord received our report about the mold as they did not agree we should be closed. After reading the report they had a company refute the report without even stepping foot into the facility. Not sure how a company could say we didn’t have a mold problem when they never visited us. After challenging their findings, they decided to do an on site investigation. The company they used decided to write a false report stating there was no visible mold and there wasn’t an active mold problem. We had an expert review their reports and the lab work they did confirmed that we DID have a mold problem and it was significantly worse than when we did our tests. The written report that was given to us was a blatant lie to pressure us to reopen because the landlord made it clear that we shouldn’t be closed. It’s clear the landlord values their rent money more than people’s health.
Currently, we are still battling it out with the landlord and our insurance company. Neither feel they should have to pay for this which has left us in a horrible position. Isn’t this what insurance is for? Our insurance has maintained the stance that this is the landlord’s responsibility while the landlord has tried to find every loophole to blame us for this disaster that we had no control over. Saul Centers has also repeatedly mentioned their reluctance to help as they don't see us surviving due to our declining numbers from COVID even though things were starting to pick back up. We had to cancel numerous parties and reservations due to this issue. There's no reason to believe things were going in the wrong direction as you can tell by the reservations that were coming back along with email inquiries.
As you could imagine, expenses have piled up with many many more to come including legal fees to pursue this further. We ask for any help you could potentially give whether it be a donation or even a share to get our story out there. We truly feel that we have gone about this the right way and are essentially being bullied by the landlord in an attempt to get out of paying this. Please help us keep this huge part of the community open!!!