Sophie Bolich

Falcon Bowl Reopening Under New Ownership

New operator still under wraps, will be unveiled soon.

By - Oct 3rd, 2022 05:45 pm
Falcon Bowl. Photo by Michael Horne.

Falcon Bowl. Photo by Michael Horne.

Falcon Bowl hosted its final league night at the end of June, following a tumultuous year and a half for the business. Teams of bowlers left the lanes uncertain of when, or if, they would play their next round at the historic building.

Thanks to a group of Riverwest residents, the historic Falcon Bowl, 801 E. Clarke St., officially resumed operations Oct. 1.

The Riverwest Investment Cooperative (RIC), a member owned investment organization created to give residents a vehicle for getting involved in the development of their neighborhood, bought Falcon Bowl in 2021. On Friday, Sept. 30, the group announced it’s reopening in a Facebook post. The new operator was not named, but the post did say they would be introduced at the annual meeting in October.

Lynn Okopinski, operator of Falcon Bowl since 1982, had plans to retire in June but agreed to stay on a little longer to help facilitate the transition.

The 140-year-old bar, bowling alley and event hall previously served for 75 years as the headquarters of the Polish Falcons Nest 725, a fraternal organization. Before that, it had a long history as a tavern and dance hall, according to a 2016 Bar Exam column by Michael Horne.

The possible demise of Falcon Bowl became public knowledge when the building was listed for sale in 2021. The Falcons were asking $249,000 for the 12,502-square-foot building, which includes an apartment on the second floor. Neighborhood concern for losing the institution was amplified by the thought that the building could be demolished.

Lance Wooten, of Riverwest Realty, who represented the Falcons in the sale, told Urban Milwaukee that there were nearly a dozen offers at that time, and the best offer was from the cooperative; however, a sale never went through. The property was re-listed again later in the year at $350,000. Once again, the highest and best offer was $500,000 from RIC.

Clare Lewis, a RIC board member, told Urban Milwaukee at the time that the organization wanted to keep Falcon Bowl in community hands, saying, “The building has been an anchor in the community for generations.”

Earlier this year, RIC put out a call for a proprietor to take over business operations with the aim of reopening Falcon Bowl. Interested parties would be required to “make tenant improvements” and facilitate “flexible programming of the event hall.” Above all, the new operator would create 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,” Urban Milwaukee previously reported.

RIC’s Facebook post indicated that the new operators have prior experience in bowling operations, project management in general contracting, and hospitality. They plan to make historically sensitive updates to achieve “modern standards while maintaining its character,” the post said.

“The people that make up Falcon Bowl LLC have deep roots in the Riverwest/Harambee community and multi-generational ties with the former Polish Falcon Nest 725,” the post said.

The cooperative’s annual meeting will be held at 1 p.m., Oct. 15 at Falcon Bowl. A representative of RIC did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

And so the Falcon Bowl saga has concluded, for now, with the business poised to enter a new era, but with the much loved charm and cheap beer intact.

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