Bowling: Part of New ‘Activity Bar’ Model

by Bob Johnson 0

Bowling has traditional centers, family entertainment centers, bowling lounges and hybrid centers — among other labels. To that list you may now add: activity bars.

That’s the phrase being used to describe upscale bars that feature various activities to keep patrons engaged… and spending money. It’s a label that has been applied to Plank, a bar and restaurant that opened late last year at Jack London Square in Oakland, Calif.

In addition to 18 bowling lanes, Plank features video games and billiards. Does this sound like a center right out of the 1950s? Well, the amenities may be the same, but how they’re presented is entirely different. There is no doubt that Plank is a bar first and a bowling facility second… or perhaps third or fourth.

Plank is one of several activity bars that have opened in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past year and a half. Others include:

• Urban Putt — Featuring a 14-hole, “Rube Goldberg-like” miniature golf course.

• Brewcade — Featuring 25 craft beers and 24 vintage video games.

Other recent bowling-focused openings include Mission Bowling Club in San Francisco, and a branch of the Lucky Strike chain in the China Basin neighborhood.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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