It looks like Bowlero — a supposedly rowdy bowling alley in Crystal City at the foot of apartments — won’t be going to the gutter this year.
The Arlington County Board plans to renew its occupancy permits for Bowlero (320 23rd Street S.) this weekend and save it for closure, on the condition that staff review its operations in January next year, closely monitoring the company in the meantime. and will review it again in 2025.
But the relationship between the bowling alley and the residents of The Buchanan’s apartments above it is uneasy. Dozens of reports have been received by the Arlington County Police Department about fights, drunken and rowdy customers, indecent exposure and damaged property.
It reached a point where ACPD organized an online town hall on March 31 last year to hear tenant concerns and discuss the work of officers and Bowlero personnel to control crowds.
Eighteen months after opening, Arlington County is recommending council to renew Bowlero’s permits with the one-year review to address community concerns about nighttime nuisances. Since opening in July 2020, there have been nearly 70 calls for service to ACPD.
The county says it supports the renewal of the permits as the quality of life problems caused by noisy customers are addressed through the Arlington Restaurant Initiative (ARI), a partnership between ACPD and restaurants and bars to make Arlington a safe nightlife destination.
Otherwise, a county report said, staff found no other issues with the company operating there.
Police support the extension because Bowlero maintains the restaurant initiative accreditation it earned in October 2020, according to the report. Alleyway management is taking an active role in involving the police, ACPD said in city hall, making half of the 52 calls for help between July 2020 and March 31.
“Bowlero has also implemented appropriate security measures and best practices, as recommended by the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), for crowd calming and crowd management, in addition to proactively responding to ongoing reports on the ground,” the report said. “Police have not identified any open public safety issues related to continued use of the subject.”
These security measures include scanning people with wands and checking bags, the report said. In addition, a neighborhood contact person has been appointed to allay residents’ concerns.
Still, members of a nearby civil society have expressed concern “about reports of excessive late night noise and potentially dangerous activities associated with patrons of the establishment,” the report said.
A former resident, who moved in part because of the nuisance downstairs, said metal detectors and police best practices “treat the symptoms” but don’t address the root causes: alcohol, prices, promotions and hours.
The permits allow Bowlero to operate Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
The former Buchanan resident said the calls to police described in the report — mainly calls about fights and loud and drunk customers — “seem typical of what I’ve been through.”
“They are absurd,” he said. “Gun issue? Street fights? Woman exposing herself? These aren’t just noise complaints, and this wasn’t U Street either [a street in D.C. known for its nightlife] prior to the opening of Bowlero. It was a quiet and fairly safe street that turned into a place for active avoidance.”
Here’s the full list of what residents asked for in 2021: