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By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Not at all in the holiday spirit, the City Council last week voted to kill one of our last inner-city bowling alleys: Holiday Bowl on Crenshaw Boulevard.
Holiday Bowl‘s long, convivial and important local history has been well-chronicled in these pages by my colleague Erin Aubry and elsewhere in the media (but last week’s vote not to save it was reported only in City News). As the Times further said of Holiday Bowl: “Might be the only place on the planet where you can have your eggs with Chinese char siu pork or Louisiana hot links . . . if it‘s not, it’s probably the only place you can eat like that and bowl.”
But Holiday did far more than provide exotic fare for an evening of strikes and spares; it also anchored an entire community: It survived the 1965 and 1992 riots -- its own patrons defended it in the latter unrest. Founded by Nisei partners, the Googie-moderne, rambling structure‘s 1958 opening encouraged black and Asian harmony in the diverse, formerly lily-white neighborhood. Holiday remained a key social center until it was finally shut down last May.
Early this year, local developer and owner Marshall Siskin, who in these pages termed the facility outdated and rundown, offered it to developers. Whatever replaces Holiday will not include bowling, which Siskin has termed passe.
Instead, it’s likely to include your strip-mall basics -- like a thousand similar locations throughout the city; unfortunately, on Crenshaw, such malls have replaced larger, higher-waged businesses.
All that will remain of Holiday Bowl, the City Council decreed, is the building‘s colorful facade. This is the result of a compromise. The council voted to save this single most superficial aspect of the entire building because it couldn’t figure out another way to save anything. The consensus was that bowling just isn‘t a happening thing anymore in mid-Crenshaw.
“There was no business,” as Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski put it. Or more forcefully, Nate Holden said, “It is not going to be a bowling alley, come hell or high water, no matter what you do.” He sounded quite pleased. The pending development is in his district.
But the 9-3 vote for the facade recommendation means the matter must return to the council for another consideration after it goes to the Cultural Heritage Commission for further review. Meanwhile, Jacqueline Sowell, who once worked at Holiday and is now with the Coalition To Save Holiday Bowl, insists that there is still a chance for a renewed Holiday bowling venue. “I hope that Holden has to eat his words,” she said.
Sowell says she still believes that an entrepreneur will be found who is willing to put the property back to its proper use: accommodating America’s most popular sport. She claims that the real reason that the South Crenshaw operation lost business was not so much lack of consumer demand, but haphazard management and low investment in upkeep.
Sharing her hope for a bowling renewal were Councilman Mike Feuer and Nick Pacheco, plus Councilwoman Laura Chick. And Mike Hernandez, who got the motion amended so that the bowling lanes can‘t be demolished until a new tenant signs a lease.
“What doesn’t make sense to me is the urgency to tear [this] thing down,” Hernandez said. It does make sense, of course, if you want to make sure no one ever bowls there again.