Brooklyn Bowl celebrates 10 years of rocking and rolling


Brooklyn Bowl — the popular music venue and bowling alley in Williamsburg that celebrates its 10-year anniversary on Tuesday — might not have come up with the concept. But it certainly has perfected it.

“We weren’t the first ones to do bowling and music on the same room,” Brooklyn Bowl general manager Stephen Schwarz tells The Post. “But I think we were the first ones to do it with this level of music production and also this level of service. They may seem like different activities, but at the heart of it, Brooklyn Bowl is about having a good time. People come to have a good time, so it does mesh.”

The 994-person-capacity venue has played host to musical A-listers like Robert Plant, Adele, Snoop Dogg and Guns N’ Roses and established residencies like Questlove’s Bowl Train, Soulive’s Bowlive and The Hold Steady’s Massive Nights. The latest edition of Bowlive, tied in with the 10th anniversary, will run from Thursday to Saturday.

While revelers have been flocking to Brooklyn Bowl’s neighborhood for a few years now, it wasn’t always that way, even in the relatively short time the venue, a former iron foundry, has been in business.

“The biggest changes have been how the neighborhood has changed,” says Schwarz, who has been with Brooklyn Bowl since its launch. “When we opened, it was really in that part of Williamsburg just the brewery [Brooklyn Brewery] and us. Now there are more options, more restaurants, more brewpubs. We started out totally as a destination, and now the neighborhood has become a destination, so we’re seeing a lot more foot traffic.”

Peter Shapiro, who owned the former Wetlands Preserve in Tribeca, owns Brooklyn Bowl along with Charley Ryan. The Wetlands was a hotbed for the burgeoning jam band scene of the ’90s, with Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Blues Traveler and Spin Doctors performing there regularly. Activism, especially of the environmental bent, was also a hallmark of the club, which closed in 2001.

Shapiro — who also owns The Capitol Theater in Port Chester and has produced major events, including the Grateful Dead’s farewell shows in 2015 — brought some of that spirit with him to Brooklyn Bowl. For example, Brooklyn Bowl is LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Brooklyn Bowl general manager Stephen Schwarz
Brooklyn Bowl general manager Stephen SchwarzSylvia Torres

“We used recycled rubber tires for the stage. The water fixtures are all low-flow, so there’s reduced water usage,” Schwarz explains. “We don’t use any bottled beer — all draft beer.”

Even the alleys’ pin-spotter machines are environmentally conscious: The pins are moved by strings, which uses a fraction of the energy of a standard setup, Schwarz says.

Food, meanwhile — often an afterthought at music venues — is by Blue Ribbon and has earned a 4.4 out of 5 from Zagat.

“It’s normal to get good hospitality when you walk into a restaurant, and people don’t expect that from a music venue,” Schwarz says. “That’s what makes people take notice, and that makes us stand out and it’s what keeps people coming back.”

Additionally, Brooklyn Bowl — which also has a Las Vegas location, celebrating its fifth anniversary — hosts private events like meetings, conventions and conferences, with past clients including Spotify, Coca Cola, TED, New York Public Radio and Steve Madden.

Some of Schwarz’s favorite musical memories at the venue include performances by members of Ween, three of four Phish members and the band Akron/Family.

“I’m most proud of the community that we’ve created,” he says. “I think we got into this thing — this is the music business, but it’s really the people business. So that’s the staff that we have, and the family that’s grown around it is the reason we are who we are today. We’ve created an amazing community of musicians and music fans.

“Every time someone says to me that Brooklyn Bowl is their favorite music venue to go to or their favorite place to play, those are my favorite moments.”

By Michael Lello

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