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Bowling by the Numbers

By Gene Williams
Staff Writer

September 21 -- Which would you rather have, a 47 or a 48?

In many instances, the difference of a single digit wouldn’t matter much. But when it comes to a liquor license, the number makes all the difference in the world.

Just ask David Hibbert, the architect behind a proposal to build a 15,000-square-foot upstairs bowling alley on the Third Street Promenade.

Although alcohol licenses are issued by the State, the City wants to know what kind of license he’s applying for before it can give him the go-ahead.

To keep his project on track, he hopes to have the issue cleared up by Wednesday night when he goes before the Planning Commission.

“We thought we were applying for a type 47 license, which is the typical alcohol license,” Hibbert said. “And then our planner (from the City) concluded that it should be a type 48.”

Confused? So was Hibbert.

If his project qualifies for a 47 -- the kind granted to restaurants -- there will be no problem having minors in the facility.

But if he gets stuck with a 48 -- the kind issued to bars -- it will mean adults only, and that just won’t do for a place designed to provide recreation for patrons of all ages.

“One way or the other, we are going to have a type 47 at the end of the day,” Hibbert said.

The idea of putting 12 bowling lanes, a couple of pool tables and a 1,000 square foot lounge above Johnny Rockets restaurant in the old Woolworths building has received nothing but enthusiastic support from the City, Hibbert said.

“Everyone is really excited about the project,” Hibbert said. “From the first time I asked City Hall about it, I never heard anything bad about it.”

Thumbs up were given to the proposal last month by the Bayside District Board and again this month by City planners.

Hibbert, who has designed numerous buildings in Santa Monica, said City staff has been very cooperative in helping him sort out his licensing problem.

He admitted that part of the trouble is that he has little experience with State alcohol regulations.

Another part of the problem, he said, is that because his project is so unlike anything that’s been proposed before, City Hall isn’t quite sure how to deal with it.

Since his preliminary plans included bringing in food service from outside restaurants, Hibbert thought there would be no problem qualifying for the less restrictive type 47 license. But since he didn’t plan for a kitchen -- oh, no, a 48!

Hibbert said he and his associates are going to “do whatever we can” to get the license his client needs to make the bowling alley work for families as well as adult singles.

“The only question is, Can we get there to meet all of the City’s requirements by Wednesday night” when his project is reviewed by the Planning Commission?

If everything works out, the new alley should open in less than a year.

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