By JILL BOOGREN
Bowlers and beer lovers rejoice! Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery is bringing its craft brews into the heart of the Nokomis neighborhood. Plans are to renovate Skylane Bowl, at 50th St. and 34th Ave. S., and offer a restaurant with a full-service kitchen, a bar, and yes – bowling!
While the purchase was not yet complete at the time of this writing, Pete Rifakes, co-owner of Town Hall Brewery and Town Hall Tap, is proceeding as if he’s got the green light.
“We’re optimistic that it will get done,” he said.
Expect it to have the look and feel of Town Hall Tap, with a large, antique bar and old beer signs that Rifakes has been collecting over the years, as well as a similar tap beer and pub menu.
Like at the Tap, there will be eight or nine Town Hall brews — which are only available at their establishments — and about 15 guest taps, including seasonal rotations. There are no plans to brew on site.
As for the food menu, Rifakes said it will be specialized for the bowling alley, but will likely include some of the items from the Tap and Brewery. The walleye sandwich he said would be good bet. And you can probably count on their great french fries.
Dave Dobish, who lives nearby and has bowled in a league at Skylane before, is happy with the prospect of Town Hall coming to the neighborhood.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “The explosion of these good places [like Northbound and Busters] to get a good meal and great beer is great to see in our neighborhood.”
That Town Hall is an established entity is also a plus.
“You don’t want to have it be fly by night and then close up,” said Dobish. “It’s an established brand and company that will bring a high quality to the neighborhood.”
Plans are to upgrade the lanes, reinstate league bowling, and offer open bowling as well.
“We still want to cater to the people in the neighborhood who like to bowl,” said Rifakes.
Area resident Sue Olive, who bowled at Skylane occasionally but wasn’t in a league herself, said she spent many Saturday afternoons at Skylane, watching her son bowl in the Junior League.
“It was a great Saturday bowling place to go,” she said. “I’d gab with the ladies there.” Some would come down even if their kids weren’t bowling any more.
“It was just that friendly kind of place,” Olive said. She hopes it will be a fun place with regular leagues that will “grab some of those old-timers back.”
“I’d hope it would have something to attract the neighborhood back again,” she said. “Bowling is a fun thing to do. Fun for all ages.”
Dobish can envision bowling in a league there again, especially if shorter leagues will be available, ten weeks as opposed to the full season. He said being able to have a few beers and walk home is a pretty big draw.
Rifakes is a bowler himself, although he said he doesn’t bowl like real serious people. Back in his hey day, when he was in leagues, he bowled around a 165. These days he only gets out a few times a year and figures his average is now significantly less.
“I’ve never been great. I’ve never owned my own shoes [he did have a ball], but I enjoy it,” he said. “I would anticipate having my own shoes and ball after this.”
Rifakes wants to offer a place for families, kids and adults. He’d like to keep up the tradition of having kids’ birthday parties on weekend days. He also envisions there being some room for small banquets and other gatherings, so people can have bowling parties.
They have their work cut out for them. The building has been for sale a long time, and a lot of things need updating. It’s also two buildings, so a lot of work will be done joining one building to the other.
“The interior is really segmented at this point,” said Rifakes. His goal is to make it into “a large cohesive restaurant.”
The bowling alley will stay where it is. They’ll add more height to the ceiling and put in a full-service kitchen. The architecture will lend itself to the antique bar.
“It’ll look a lot different than it does now, hopefully in a good way,” said Rifakes.
Dobish looks forward to having another place that helps create a sense of community, saying it adds to the economic vitality and sustainability of the neighborhood.
“It’s pretty great,” he said. “More and more people are finding the hidden gem that is the Nokomis area.”
Rifakes anticipates a spring or summer opening.
‘Til then, get to conditioning your pint – and bowling – arm. Cheers!
Location: 5019 34th Avenue South