Graham Kilmer

Falcon Bowl Owners Seek A Proprietor

Riverwest Investment Co-op releases RFP for new operator of bar and bowling alley.

By - Mar 7th, 2022 03:29 pm
Falcon Bowl. Photo by Michael Horne.

Falcon Bowl. Photo by Michael Horne.

The neighborhood investment co-op that bought the venerable Falcon Bowl in Riverwest has begun looking for someone to run the place.

In December 2021, the Riverwest Investment Cooperative closed on a purchase of the bar at 801-803 E. Clarke St., which includes a bowling alley and an event hall. The cooperative is a member-owned investment group founded in 2003 to give Riverwest residents some control over the development of their neighborhood.

On March 1, the organization officially released a request for proposals to operate the business. The current operator, R. Lynn Okopinski, is planning to retire this year.

The co-op purchased the building to preserve it as a neighborhood institution that has “played host to countless neighborhood weddings, memorial services, quinceañera celebrations, spaghetti dinners, and bowling nights,” as described in the RFP.

The co-op is looking for a financially sustainable proprietors that can “make tenant improvements and successfully steward this place for years to come.” It wants “flexible programming of the event hall space, preserving the ability to host neighborhood events and bringing additional activity to the building.” It also states, as a priority, that it is a “welcoming and inclusive venue for all residents of Riverwest, including residents of color, the LGBTQIA community, and bowlers who have made this their home lanes for decades.”

The building has 12,502 square feet, a capacity of 230 people and potential room for a patio or beer garden. Above the entertainment space, the property also includes a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor. The co-op is interested in proposals that include an offer for the apartment, as well, but will entertain proposals for just the commercial space.

The co-op is planning to enter a triple-net-lease, starting somewhere at approximately $5,000 or more per month. “If desired by proposer, RIC will consider a purchase option or lease/purchase arrangement in addition to a traditional lease structure.”

The co-op is accepting proposals through April 15. It also plans to work with the tenant to “conduct neighborhood engagement” before beginning the public approval process for business licensing. A new lease could begin as soon as July.

As Clare Lewis, an RIC board member, previously told Urban Milwaukee, “The building has been an anchor in the community for generations.” It was built in 1882, and in 1913 the bowling lanes were certified. They are now among the longest continually operated bowling lanes in the country.

The building’s history includes a string of taverns, but from 1945 until very recently it has been the home for the Polish Falcons Nest 745. The Falcons are a fraternal organization founded by Polish-Americans.

The investment co-op bought the building for $500,000, well above the listing price. The RIC, made up of Riverwest residents, wanted to control the future of the neighborhood landmark.

Falcon Bowl

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