Construction of upscale bowling alley River City Roll near Scott’s Addition is on target for a mid-April opening.
“I’m extremely pleased with the way it looks,” said Robert Long, co-owner of the project with business partner Ben Eubanks.
The 20-lane bowling alley, with an 80-seat restaurant and 1,800-square-foot dog-friendly outdoor patio with an additional 60 seats, is under construction at 939 Myers St., behind the Starbucks on North Boulevard just north of West Broad Street. The $5 million project faces the Cookie Factory Lofts apartment building and is two buildings north of the Aldi grocery store on Myers Street.
“It doesn’t look like a bowling alley. The term ‘boutique bowling alley,’ when people first start hearing about us, is probably a foreign term. When they see us they will understand what that term is — the look and food and beverage offerings compared to your typical bowling center,” he said.
Richmond-based firm Price Simpson Harvey, which has designed Uptown Alley bowling facilities and the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s expansion project in the West Creek office park in Goochland County, did the architectural and interior design for River City Roll.
The building interior and exterior will feature murals by Mickael Broth in collaboration with Ross Trimmer of Sure Hand Signs.
Wood saved from the 1920s warehouse that was torn down to make way for the new structure is being used to frame and face some of the new counter spaces and cabinetry.
The 22,000-square-foot facility has 12 bowling lanes on the left side of the building as you walk through the entrance. Eight additional lanes are on the right side of the building near the dining area.
Each lane will have custom-made couches and tables, Long said. The furniture is coming from an out-of-town vendor, but the tables near the lanes and in the restaurant are being made by Henry Kettlewell of local firm Kettlewell Construction, Long said.
Adjacent to the 12 lanes on the left side of the building will be an area with tabletop shuffleboard and Skee-Ball consoles, which can be played for free.
There’s also a technology-equipped room that can be reserved for private events. A door allows the room to be shut off for privacy, or it can remain open if having a private party with reserved bowling lanes.
“I think we will do a ton of business with this, whether it’s birthday parties, corporate events, offsite meetings,” Long said of the private event space.
“We will have a bunch of tiered event packages,” said Long, who has a background in finance. He will be overseeing sales and marketing; Eubanks will manage the food and beverage operations.
Pizza cooked in River City Roll’s centerpiece brick pizza oven will be the focus of the menu, but other dishes will include slow-roasted pork tacos, fried chicken thighs, a Chesapeake Bay oyster dish, and burgers. Brad Slemaker, a former sous chef at Lemaire restaurant at The Jefferson Hotel, has been brought on as chef at River City Roll.
“No single item on our menu is over $15. From a cost standpoint, we are very competitive with other restaurants in Scott’s Addition,” Long said.
Along the front right wall of the dining area are four large garage-type doors that open to the patio.
“On a really nice day you can have all four open and have an open-air feel in here,” Long said. “The bar will be indoor-outdoor, so the bartender can serve outside from here.”
A stage for live music is along the north wall of the dining area.
Mike Cline, past president and a current board member of the Scott’s Addition Boulevard Association, said what he has seen of River City Roll is impressive.
“I think it adds a live music element for sure,” Cline said. “You could have small bands. It adds another dimension” to entertainment in the area.
“You have a movie theater and bowling alley all within the same block basically. It makes Scott’s Addition a destination,” Cline said.
Bow Tie Cinemas’ Movieland at Boulevard Square theater complex is at the north end of Myers Street, within walking distance of River City Roll.
One issue that has not yet been addressed is the condition of Myers Street and the additional traffic that will spill onto it from River City Roll’s 150-space parking lot and possibly later from an adjacent office complex proposed next to River City Roll.
Street improvements are called for as part of a city master plan, Cline said.
“But no one can tell me how that’s going to be funded,” Cline said. “It all starts with a traffic study. That’s scheduled for later this year, but Myers (Street) is going to be impacted heavily,” Cline said.
“I think Myers Street originally was meant to be more of an alley. Now it’s a full-blown street. People use it as a cut-through to Movieland,” Long said. Starbucks and Aldi also have added to the traffic demand.
River City Roll hours will be from 5 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays. Admission after 5 p.m. is limited to those age 21 and older.
Bowling pricing will be by the hour. Mondays through Thursdays the cost is $25 an hour covering up to six bowlers. On weekends, the price jumps to $35 an hour. Shoe rental is $4.50.
“This is a place that encourages people to have fun and not try to worry about bowling a 300” score, Long said.