Last night the ANC met for its first hearing of the new year. And there’s no need to beat around the bush: the proposed bowling alley was front and center.
A representative of Vornado attended the meeting to present his company’s plans for the mall, generally, and the bowling alley, specifically. The presentation was interesting for GM since it was the first time in a long time that Vornado has said anything publicly at all about the project (particularly the interior elements).
The plans for the bowling alley call for a company called Pinstripes to operate it. Pinstripes is a company founded in 2006 by Dale Schwartz in suburban Chicago. Mr. Schwartz was on hand last night to present his vision.
The phrase “high end” was used a lot.
Specifically the phrase “extraordinarily high end wine and food coupled with a bowling and banquet experience” was used. Moreover, the food promised is going to be “Four Seasons” and “Ritz Carlton”-level quality. In a bowling alley. Yeah, GM’s skeptical too.
But unbelievably audacious promises of food quality were not the primary focus of the discussion. That was instead the issue of noise.
Physically, Pinstripes would be located on the southeast corner of the building. You would enter the top of two floors along the canal just south of the old firehouse (soon to be the Frye Company).
On the top floor would be some restaurant and bar space as well as some banquet rooms (more on that later).
Downstairs would have the bowling lanes themselves, along with more tables and bar space and a bocce court. There will be twelve lanes.
As you probably know, the mall also houses condos. A bunch of those condos are on the floor directly above what would be the top floor of Pinstripes. This would put the bowling alley two floors below the closest residents.
Schwartz promised that his company would do whatever necessary to ensure that no noise could be heard from the bowling (a key limitation, as GM will explain when he gets around to discussing that banquet point). The residents are already out of patience with regards to the noise coming from the months and months of construction. One resident, a young Afghanistan War veteran, stood and said living there has been Hell and that it was easier to sleep in Afghanistan. Tough to argue with that.
Despite all this conflict, the commission held out hope that a properly drafted zoning order could allow the business to open while still guaranteeing peace and quiet for the residents. But they drafted their resolution in a such a way that if such an agreement is not reached before the January 14th zoning hearing that it opposed the special exception application. The conversation between the parties continued in the hallway after the session and was still going strong when GM left 30 minutes later.
Now, about those banquets.
It became pretty clear from Schwartz’s presentation that a key component to the Pinstripes business plan is banquet hosting. He mentioned weddings, birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. These would take place in the banquet rooms on the second floor and could include over a hundred people. Schwartz stated that he didn’t expect there to be too much noise and that they didn’t want loud DJs, but come on. Have you even been to a quiet wedding reception? Does the boy really become a man if the Bar Mitzvah party is mum? GM guarantees these would ultimately become a headache for the residents who live immediately above the space.
As GM mentioned, Schwartz only promised to keep the bowling noise inaudible. He didn’t say he’d keep the banquet noise similarly confined. In fact he made the specific point that, hey, if it weren’t for the bowling there wouldn’t be a zoning hearing, so why make an issue of the restaurant noise? Which is a logically sound point, but not necessarily the best sign of flexibility.
While the ANC would like the BZA to consider the banquet noise in its ruling, the reality is that the ANC and the neighbors will get another bite at the apple when the liquor license is applied for. Even if the BZA allows the bowling alley, there’s a more than negligible chance that the ABC process pretty much prohibits the banquet use. At that point we’d see just how important it is to Pinstripe’s business plan.
GM may be mistaken, but last night was the first time he’s seen Vornado announce that TJ Maxx and Homegoods would be tenants. GM first broke this news back in September, but in no news piece or press release has he seen Vornado confirm it.
The Vornado rep quickly walked through the plans and showed how much space is not yet leased (or at least, how much space they haven’t announced a tenant for).
Interestingly the rep announced that Dean and Deluca renewed. GM had heard rumors that they were month-to-month and weren’t interested in staying.
Here are a couple other items from last night:
- Cafe Milano and Kafe Leopold will be open for extended hours over inauguration weekend. After a big back and forth four years ago over the same issue, there seems to be less interest in staying open later this time around.
- A new children’s arts and craft center called Anna Banana will open on S St. across from Jelleff. Awesome.
- The commission is now eight people. Eight white, male people that is. GM hopes this changes in future elections.