61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Hours: Open Mon-Fri 6p, Sat-Sun 12p
Subway: L to Bedford, G to Nassau
Written by: Emily Niewendorp
Brooklyn Bowl, is a carnival in a stately barn. Its bright red entrance, in an alley between the venue and neighboring Brooklyn Brewery, gives a hint of the atmosphere inside. The venue is one gigantic space—its performance area, Blue Ribbon restaurant and bowling alley partitioned off by countless half-walls and walkways.
The venue is a luxurious playground and a brilliant addition to Williamsburg’s scene. In the large foyer/lounge, patrons relax and dine in the company of a towering shelf of old-fashioned punch down dolls from carnival games. A fortune teller hovering over the ATM and carnival hands painted on the darkly, stained walls that point to in-venue destinations add a fun, eerie vibe. The main bar around the corner replicates a water-shooting gallery.
When you step down onto the performance floor, the live show grabs your attention. This area is enclosed by half-walls separating it from the 16-lane bowling alley. Its tall stage and light show become the main focus. To top it off, video feeds project the performance onto large screens that hang throughout the venue.
Many music genres are presented at Brooklyn Bowl. DJs play after the shows and there are party and DJ nights; Questlove, from The Roots, spins weekly. After performing, musicians can relax in a new private deck built above the green room or enjoy a meal and go bowling.
Brooklyn Bowl is a certified green venue, containing the first green bowling alley in the world. Beers are available only on tap—from local breweries—and bike racks outside have room for 30+ capacity. Many other aspects contribute to the green business as well. The owner, Peter Shapiro, says, “It all was a pretty big gamble, but it looks like it has worked.”
The restaurant is open until 2 a.m. weekdays and 4 a.m. weekends. The Blue Ribbon “bowling alley” style menu offers salads, fried chicken, burgers, sandwiches, entrees and shakes.
Peter Shapiro was bitten by the live music bug during his proprietorship of legendary Wetlands Preserve rock venue, from 1996 – 2001. Peter says, “After it closed I was really eager…, but wanted to let Wetlands rest and do a venue a little differently.”
For years he looked around Manhattan and Brooklyn with new partner and former Wetlands manager, Charley Ryan. Wanting a venue that was different than the typical rectangular-shaped room, the men took a gamble on a combo of 3 things: music, food and bowling. A large space was needed for these ideas, which they discovered in 61 Wythe Ave. when they were walking the streets one day. This building, an iron works foundry dating back to 1881, was now a gutted warehouse with no electricity or plumbing, but an amazing shell and bones. The endeavor developed and the space evolved into the impressive performance venue, bowling alley and restaurant that it is now.
Brooklyn Bowl opened in July 2009 with several key events putting the club on the music scene radar. A Jelly pool party with Dan Deacon, Deerhunter & No Age was rained out and moved to Brooklyn Bowl weeks before the venue was even planning to have shows. Additionally, numerous artists came out to support and promote the venue; artists that got their start at Wetlands, such as Blues Travelers, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, The Roots and Dave Mathews Band. SoulLive, an acid band, had a 10-night run, with many guests.
There is a panorama of activity going on upon entering 23,000-sq. ft. Brooklyn Bowl. “The vertigo of so much going on can hopefully make you forget about your real life,” says owner Peter Shapiro.