Harvard professor Robert Putnam wrote a book in 2001, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, which says our waning interest in social organizations—like bowling leagues—threatens our democracy. Any chance Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas will boast league nights in addition to live music?
Listen, we’re going to offer league bowling, but it’ll be our own democratic, industry-night version of it. I envision teams of clubs and restaurants—Spearmint Rhino vs. Tao, for example. Social media drives so much of our lives, but only in a virtual way. Nothing on the Internet can ever replace the awesome feeling of high-fiving friends after a strike.
How will Brooklyn Bowl stack up against other Strip entertainment?
There are no alleys on the Strip, and we want to bring a singular approach with our 2,000-capacity venue, with 32 bowling lanes and the Blue Ribbon restaurant serving comfort food. Vegas will always need experiences you can only do in Vegas.
Have you been to Light? That doesn’t exist in other people’s hometowns; it doesn’t exist anywhere else. We want to pay tribute to and add ourselves to that larger equation.
In our current era of digital entertainment and electronic dance music, bowling and live rock ’n’ roll seem like retro-niche pastimes rather than huge moneymakers, don’t you think?
We’re not driven by money and never have been. We want to offer experiences dissimilar from anything else out there. Most live-music venues are, what, a stage and a bar? That’s what we do, sure, but we also give people something different. I’m a firm believer in the rule that, if you do really good shit, the financial stuff takes care of itself. It’s important not to be driven by money, because what inevitably happens is that decisions are made that take away from the customer experience. The focus should be on delivering something cool to the customer.
Think about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Skrillex playing a bowling alley. They don’t play the Bowl to make the most money; they do it to deliver and have a great experience.
What else sets apart Brooklyn Bowl from other Vegas venues?
There are great music halls in Vegas, but there’s no question that a 2,000-capacity venue in its own building in the dead center of the Strip is going to positively impact live music. The other venues aren’t center-Strip. We’re also a multi-night room for bands that aren’t ready for a Celine Dion-level residency.
I’m a music fan, so we put fans first. The Roots, for example, are playing Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas three nights [March 14, and with Elvis Costello on March 15-16], making it easier for the band’s fan base to catch a flight and see the band over the entire weekend.
I haven’t visited the original Brooklyn Bowl, but when I belly up to a bar or see a rock show in New York, the service is lacking. How do you ensure that won’t be an issue in Las Vegas, which is so service-oriented?
The best service-industry people in the country are in Vegas, because they’re here to do this, and they can make good money doing it. In [a lot of] big cities, everyone’s really trying to be an actor, writer, whatever. We’re so impressed with the people we’re meeting in Vegas. All we want to do is to bring our vibe and continue what we started at Brooklyn Bowl: to be as customer-sensitive and fan-friendly as possible. Our security staff wears jackets that say WELCOME.
It’s cool, because in Las Vegas we’re a standalone [business], which means people are rooting for us. We’re the underdog.
Was there a single moment when you said to yourself, “I want to own a live music venue!”?
Somehow during a Grateful Dead show in Chicago, I ended up in a drum circle. I lost my friends in a parking lot, and there was so much overload and so many opportunities for escape that I decided to go for a multisensory approach, which is what our brains need. Which is what Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas strives for with music, the lanes, the fried chicken. It’s like Disney or Chuck E. Cheese for adults.
But isn’t Las Vegas already tagged as a grown-up Disneyland?
Absolutely, and many places do it well, with DJs and table service. But again, we bring something to Vegas that’s different, unique, timeless. Our entire freestanding structure is 80,000 square feet, making us and Hakkasan the largest clubs in Vegas.
Opening Brooklyn Bowl is good for rock ’n’ roll, and for the guy who’s maybe pushing 40, who doesn’t necessarily want to hear EDM and instead take in some New Orleans-style music.
Located in the Linq, Brooklyn Bowl debuts March 8-9 with sets by jazz-funk trio Soulive. For an updated list of artists and dates and to buy tickets, visit Vegas.BrooklynBowl.com.