The Pali Lanes bowling alley in Kailua has cut back its hours after cancellations from two bowling leagues, and is appealing to the community for help with a new GoFundMe campaign.
The problem, according to operators of the bowling alley, is that the leagues need long-term contracts, which is difficult to secure with an upcoming month-to-month lease.
The ground lease for the Pali Lanes building at 120 Hekili St. is set to expire at the end of January. Starting Feb. 1, 2020, landowner Alexander & Baldwin will put Pali Lanes on a month-to-month lease.
“Bowling leagues are not something that happens overnight,” said Christian Arakawa, vice president of Team #SavePaliLanes. “To start a bowling league you first have to get a contract with the bowling center. It can take a few weeks or a few months to produce a contract. Bowling contracts typically last up to one year. The league then has to renew the contract when the contract expires.”
Recently, the Thursday night league, made up of 10 four-man teams, decided not to renew its contract for next year. The Friday night league, made up of 16 five-man teams, also decided not to renew its contract for 2020.
That was a big blow for Pali Lanes, according to Arakawa, because the Friday night league alone brought in thousands of dollars.
Bowling hours have been cut back, as a result, he said. On Mondays and Thursdays, the bowling alley now opens at 4 p.m. instead of 2 p.m., and closes at 10 p.m., an hour earlier than usual. On Friday, the bowling alley is open later, at 4 p.m., but still open until midnight. On Sundays, the alley is only open until 10 p.m.
A&B said in a statement last month that it had committed to allowing Pali Lanes to stay in place while looking for feasible ways to preserve the building, keep bowling in Kailua and make the surrounding area a vibrant gathering place, potentially with new uses.
However, A&B said the month-to-month extension was the only real option because the owners of Pali Lanes have said they did not have the resources to fix the building and pay rent, and have not shared a long-term business plan.
“In the meantime, we want to explore every option to keep bowling in Kailua, so we are reaching out to other potential operators,” A&B said.
At the time, A&B said there had been some initial discussions with other bowling alley operators, and that it remained open to a new business plan from Pali Lanes.
“The bowling business is a difficult one and Pali Lanes is not unique in its struggle to be economically viable,” said A&B spokesman Darren Pai in an email. “That’s why so many bowling alleys have shut down across the state. We’ve committed to searching for operators with successful business models and the financial resources to make bowling viable again in Kailua.”
Arakawa said Pali Lanes needs a long-term lease of 10 years or more to be able to work with leagues, as well as to move forward on renovation plans. He also said under month-to-month terms, the lease could end at any time.
A community advocacy group, The Hamakua Group, has drawn up renovation plans for Pali Lanes, which includes adding a second story with retail and office spaces, plus solar photovoltaic panels to the top of the dome.
The GoFundMe Campaign, launched late last month, seeks donations to offset the costs of an attorney, produce new “Save Pali Lanes” shirts, and to purchase media ads to help save the bowling alley and building, which is now on the state’s list of historic places.