Brooklyn Bowl Breaks Out

When Peter Shapiro and his partner, Charley Ryan, opened the original  in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2009, the then-unorthodox concept of bowling and live music in the same building had an industry friend or two saying that idea would never work. 

Just over four years later, Shapiro, Ryan and partners Jim Woods and Alex Cornfeld have two new locations to celebrate – London’s 800-capacity Brooklyn Bowl adjacent to  that opened Jan. 16 and the under-construction, 2,000-capacity  at Caesars Entertainment’s The LINQ scheduled to open in early March.

Shapiro said the success of the 600-capacity flagship venue with its bowling alley, elaborate video screens, live music stage, bar, and food by Bruce and Eric Bromberg’s Blue Ribbon Restaurants grabbed a lot of interest in a short time.

“We thought [the concept] would be fun and cool but I don’t think we’d anticipated we’d have Kanye WestPaul SimonElvis CostelloThe Yeah Yeah Yeahs, you name the band playing,” Shapiro told Pollstar. “It’s been an amazing experience. We’ve built a great venue that can stand on its own. “Within the first year we got inquiries from people saying, ‘Wow! You should do a Brooklyn Bowl here or there.’”

Shapiro credits AEG Live Chairman Jay Marciano for pitching the London location inside the former Millennium Dome to him about two years ago.

London also has an additional perk – a closed-circuit connection to The O2’s soundboard and video cameras to feed concerts to the Bowl.

“When a concert is in the arena it will be up to the artist on whether they’ll let us do the feed. That’s only going to happen if it’s sold out. Then they’ll get paid,” Shapiro explained. “There’s so much to figure out because it’s a new kind of model. An 800-cap venue connected to an arena with the feed is new territory.”

The Las Vegas location is being done in partnership with MSG Entertainment thanks to Shapiro’s previous working relationship with Marciano and MSG chief James Dolan.

“I did the Jammy Awards at Madison Square Garden for many years and knew Jim. He was the first person I approached about Vegas – it’s big budget, as you can imagine – and he agreed,” he said. “Our point person is Melissa Ormond, president of MSG Entertainment.

“We were in the right place at the right time with the right concept. Vegas is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because we have our own building right on the Strip under [The High Roller], the biggest Ferris wheel in the world.”

As for booking the venues, Shapiro calls it a “communal experience.” “We book our own stuff but we collaborate with other people. In New York, we have a booking partnership with The Bowery Presents. In Vegas, we have one with AEG. In London, we’re booking with a lot of people. We recently entered a contract with Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons‘ Communion [Presents].”

And there’s a different booking strategy for Las Vegas, with its nearly round-the-clock hours for entertainment, which Shapiro says gives visitors an option that isn’t common.

“For late night in Vegas right now, there’s no live music. It’s DJ stuff at the major venues or clubs. There are a lot of theatres doing shows but not a lot of touring bands coming through those rooms,” he explained. “What we’re going to do is book bands for three nights – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We believe that booking [acts] for three nights will facilitate people traveling to see their favorite bands.”

“We’ll open with shows like Elvis CostelloThe Roots and Jane’s Addiction. April 18-20 we’re doing Phil Lesh & Friends [followed by] Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue [then] . I’ve never heard of that kind of thing in a club environment.”

The opening of two new venues so close together is keeping those involved hopping but it hasn’t kept Shapiro and his partners from looking ahead.

Shapiro confirmed a plan to open a Brooklyn Bowl in Chicago is under discussion.

“We didn’t intend for them to open within seven weeks of each other. One moved faster [than the other did], which brought them together,” Shapiro said. “If we can make it through opening these mega-sized venues in two of the biggest cities in the world, we’ll slow down and hopefully aim to do just one next year.”