A Tale of Two Bowls: The original Brooklyn Bowl (left) and an artist rendering of LINQ (right), the Las Vegas entertainment complex where Brooklyn Bowl plans to open in 2014. (Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Bowl; Caesar's Entertainment)
Within the same complex as a 130-foot tall, three-sided, LED-paneled sign and a 550-foot rollercoaster, eclipsing London's Eye as the tallest in the world, will be -- if everything goes according to plan -- a re-creation of Brooklyn Bowl. The well-regarded combination live music venue, bowling alley and restaurant in NYC's Williamsburg neighborhood which opened in 2009 is planning on expanding to Las Vegas by Spring 2014 while attempting to stay true to its cozy vibe.
The original Brooklyn Bowl is the product of co-founders Peter Shapiro and Charley Ryan who met in the '90s while working at NYC's Wetlands, a predominantly jam band-centric venue in TriBeCa with an early penchant for environmental consciousness (including small VW microbus in its entry way) that lasted from the early 1990s until 2001. A multi-million dollar business, Brooklyn Bowl hosts live shows nearly seven nights a week and followed the prevailing trend of venues opening in Brooklyn in the late 2000s. Four of the largest rock halls in the borough (Music Hall of Williamsburg in 2007, Bell House in 2008, Knitting Factory Brooklyn in 2009, Brooklyn Bowl in 2009) were opened or re-opened within two years of each other -- and have helped contribute to the booming 'Brooklyn' brand of late.
Shapiro, who spearheaded the Las Vegas outpost, noted that soon after the Brooklyn venue opened, lots of people commented on how the music venue/bowling alley would do well in Vegas. "We got some people reaching out to us on behalf of the major casinos on the Strip, looked at a couple of different opportunities and the opportunity at the LINQ went to the top of the list."
Another rendering of LINQ, which is slated to house Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas. (Courtesy of Caesar's Entertainment)
LINQ is Caesars Entertainment's new 300,000 square foot retail, dining and entertainment on the Las Vegas Strip located between the Imperial Palace and Flamingo Resorts and expected to open in late 2013. A $550 million project, Caruso Affiliated -- known best for creating posh retail destinations including The Grove in Los Angeles -- will act as the exclusive leasing agent. The space will include neither hotel rooms nor a casino; instead, it will be home to the Las Vegas High Roller, a 550-foot observation wheel stationed on top. Brooklyn Bowl will anchor the new space.
Caesar's Entertainment hopes that the new Brooklyn Bowl location will attract a different demographic than the traditional Las Vegas venues. "We believe this experience is something that our current visitors will enjoy, as well as appeal to and attract a new set of customer," Caesar's President and CEO Gary Loveman said in a statement. Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas hopes to capitalize on not just the broader 35 million-plus visitors coming yearly (since 2000) who spend an average of nearly $50 on shows during their trip, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, but also a younger demographic. About a quarter of visitors over the last five years have been under 40.
Williamsburg's Brooklyn Bowl, which has been named Best Music Venue by Zagat three years running, is a 23,000 square foot, 600-capacity rock venue inside of a former warehouse. While attracting the likes of Kanye West and Bill Clinton, the hotspot frequented mostly by locals is best known for DJ ?uestlove's weekly dance party and breaking trendy bands. The venue recently hosted a community-minded benefit for the Brooklyn-based Norton Records whose warehouse was flooded during Hurricane Sandy.
The Vegas iteration will be a 2,000-capacity, two-story, 78,000 square foot location, which will compete with Las Vegas' established rock venues, the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay and the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. On Billboard's 2012 list of 25 Hottest Clubs in North America, House of Blues Las Vegas ranked at No. 8 while The Joint was No. 12.
The Joint is a 4,000-capacity club which grossed $9.8 million last year over 48 dates, according to Billboard Boxscore, and is booked by concert promoter giant AEG Live. They are in the midst of a twelve-night residency with Guns 'N Roses, with a couple of dates with the Black Keys coming later this year.
The House of Blues, a 2,100-capacity venue, has a variety of rock acts -- from ZZ Top to Two Door Cinema Club -- scheduled two to four nights each week. Both cater to a Las Vegas audience with ample premium and VIP options.
The renovated Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York which Brooklyn Bowl's Peter Shapiro helped open. (Photo: Jem Aswad)
But Shapiro is confident that Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas will be worthy competition. He has developed a working relationship with Bowery Presents, who help in booking the current Brooklyn Bowl as well as his most recent project, the revival of The Capitol Theatre. A rock venue originally opened in 1926 about 35 miles north of NYC in Port Chester, The Capitol Theatre re-opened just last month in fashion with a sold-out Bob Dylan concert. In partnership with head talent buyers Josh Moore and Anthony Makes, both of Bowery Presents, the 1,835 seat theatre has a high profile schedule coming up: Phil Lesh & Friends, My Morning Jacket and Steve Miller are scheduled to come this year (Al Green also recently performed). Bowery also currently books the three-story, 3,000 capacity Terminal 5 in Midtown Manhattan. "There's room for another venue in Vegas," said Shapiro, "particularly one with the unique elements that Brooklyn Bowl offers: [bowling at] the lanes, watching the show -- it fits the Vegas experience.
(Courtesy Brooklyn Bowl)
While a larger venue, the owners envision the Las Vegas location to have a similar music-and-entertainment focus. Blue Ribbon Restaurants, which has a restaurant in Vegas, will continue to provide the food much as it does in Brooklyn. "It may be a little bigger, but it's going to have the same couches, the same kind of wood on the floor, the same style. It'll be for people who love Vegas, who love rock and roll, who want to see a show in a different way," Shapiro says. With the opening still over a year out, he predicts that the venue will bring a variety of "fun, danceable rock and roll."
At the same time, Brooklyn Bowl recognize that Las Vegas differs from the primarily 'neighborhood business' of their Williamsburg perch. Shapiro and Ryan brought in Jim Woods, president/CEO of The Bowls LLC, to help bring Brooklyn Bowl to other locations. "For the second location, we have to create a destination entertainment venue beyond the traditional music venue," said Woods.
Not Quite Williamsburg: Artist rendering of Las Vegas' $550 million LINQ complex. (Courtesy of Caesar's Entertainment)
In this case it means scaling Brooklyn Bowl up in size and accommodating the Las Vegas tourist demographic. The new location will have 32 bowling lanes on two floors, more bars, and lounge areas in addition to the main stage, floor level and a 2nd floor balcony. "If someone's in town for a couple of days, how do we position ourselves in Las Vegas, because there are plenty of options? With live music, it's easy to understand: a low commitment and more often than not there will be tickets," said Woods.
That said, Shapiro emphasized that it'll remain the Brooklyn Bowl that New Yorkers have come to love. "There's a certain thing about eating fried chicken on lane six while you're bowling and watching a show. Do I think that will translate to another location? Yes. I'm not worried."