Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley has been sold to a pair of familiar local investors.
Jesse Roberts and Fred Williams, the duo behind the Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap, have purchased the property and plan to keep some of the bowling alley lanes in operation, while adding a craft brewery, food service with an emphasis on wood-fired pizza and additional indoor entertainment.
“Even before we started Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap, we wanted to do a craft brewery,” said Roberts, in an interview with the Townsman. “We have really enjoyed the support of our community, and that, even in these uncertain times, has given us the courage to go ahead on another project.
“So the bowling alley, we thought, was the perfect place to have the space not only to keep the majority of the bowling lanes, but also to be able to put in a craft brewery.”
The future of the bowling alley in recent weeks was in doubt when an online fundraising campaign was launched to save the bowling alley. The property had been repossessed and was set for sale by the Business Development Bank of Canada, according to court records.
Roberts says the bowling ally itself will get a refresh and the building will get a facelift, which is necessary to determine engineering needs and get through zoning, permitting and licensing processes, which may take up to 12 months. Much of the renovations and building work will be done by Roberts and Williams themselves, just as it was with the Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap.
Roberts also noted the importance of the bowling alley to the community, which has been in operation for decades, while also playing up their own love of craft beer.
“This really was a lifestyle play for us,” Roberts said. “We aren’t doing it because we need to be busier, or because we need extra beer sales. We just really like the world we live in and we’re doubling down on that world.
“We’ve just been super fortunate in, of course, the customers we’ve received, but really, the staff — and that has given us the confidence to go dive off another cliff.”
While the building will keep the majority of the bowling lanes, there are plans for other kinds of entertainment, whether it be sport-based or other games.
“The Kootenays have incredible outdoors, but we think there could be more indoor entertainment,” Roberts said, noting a lack of similar types of venues between Calgary and Kelowna.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for many industries, the food and beverage sectors have been particularly hard-hit. Due to the recent three-week “circuit breaker” restrictions banning indoor dining, places like the Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap have had to pivot once again.
On the day the circuit breaker restrictions went into place, the duo was mulling their offer on the Juniper Lanes building.
“While we were finding out that the restaurant world was about to change drastically in a bad way for us, that was also the same day we had to decide whether to go ahead with this future project or not,” Roberts said. “But we basically just decided to bank on Cranbrook and bet on the fact that things are going to get better and they’re going to improve.
“Even though that was a hard day in some respects, it was worth putting it all on the line and we just have faith that things are going to just keep being awesome. Cranbrook’s always had our back and we really appreciate it.”
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