Goodbye Brooklyn Bowl, hello Punch Bowl Social. The Denver-based bowling, gaming, restaurant, and bar mini-chain has finally found a spot to open its Chicago location, as Founder and CEO Robert Thompson says they’re coming to 832 W. Fulton Market in October 2017. It’s a switch for the two similar gaming/dining concepts as Punch Bowl’s new lease is for the building that was slated for Brooklyn Bowl.
The opportunity for Punch Bowl arrived at the end of the summer and talks to take over the Brooklyn Bowl space escalated quickly, according to Thompson. "We were already actively looking in Chicago, but we weren’t going to come to the West Loop because Brooklyn Bowl was (coming) there," Thompson told Eater Chicago on Wednesday night.
The announcement was news to Brooklyn Bowl owner Peter Shapiro, who on Thursday told Eater Chicago that the building’s landlord hadn’t informed him of any changes. In addition to his business being prominently featured on renderings such as the one above, it had been on the development's blueprints as well, Curbed Chicago reported. Shapiro, a concert promoter, then said the Brooklyn Bowl Fulton Market location "was never 100 percent," however, and that they’re still "definitely interested" in expanding to Chicago.
Punch Bowl won’t take over the full space, only two floors, opposed to Brooklyn Bowl’s plan to take over all three. Punch Bowl’s not a music venue, unlike Brooklyn Bowl, who was planning to use the third floor for shows. Thompson has plans for eight bowling lanes, three private karaoke rooms and a bar within the 28,000-square-foot space. A news release describes the design as mixing "mountain lodge, Victorian, mid-mod and industrial design theme." Thompson added that the first floor of the Chicago space will feature a design Punch Bowl has never done at any of its eight locations. What exactly that entails is a secret, for now.
The Fulton Market area was Punch Bowl’s first choice, as a deal to open in Wicker Park deteriorated after problems with bringing the building up to code. Thompson believes that the West Loop/Randolph Restaurant Row area is more appealing to millennials, making it more attractive for him.
Despite the bowling, ping pong and private karaoke rooms, Punch Bowl focuses on food. "Those things are sort of hooks for what we do," Thompson said of the gaming. "But 90 percent of what we do is food and beverage. We are a restaurant and bar operation." Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson, currently a judge on Top Chef, developed their menus.
Craft cocktails and beer are part of the formula. Punch Bowl doesn’t serve bottled beer, only drafts and canned. Thompson said that’s part of his company’s desire to care for the environment.
Thompson’s company opened a suburban location a year ago in Schaumburg, but he said the concept plays better in a city setting. They’ve been looking at spaces all over Chicago, including the Wrigleyville spot where Lucky Strike announced two days ago that they were taking. Thompson said that area was too baseball-centric, and that he prefers to draw customers who live near their venue's neighborhood, rather than tourists. But it’s not like Punch Bowl is anti-sports altogether, as they hope to attract Bulls and Blackhawks fans coming from the nearby United Center.
Owners of neighboring restaurants, bars, and other businesses had expressed optimism and excitement about the possibility of Brooklyn Bowl drawing more customers to the area. Will Punch Bowl Social have the same desired effect? More to come on this bowling switcheroo soon.