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Bowled Over

Manuel Montano has been a regular at All Star Lanes in Eagle Rock since he was 12. “My father was a patron, I‘m a patron, and my children are patrons,” says the 39-year-old Montano. “It looks exactly the same as it did when I was a boy.”

The end may be near for the 22-lane bowling alley, arcade and bar, a major drawing point for this neighborhood along Eagle Rock Boulevard since 1959. On October 21, L.A. city zoning administrators will decide whether it will be torn down to make room for Extra Space Storage, a three-story self-storage building.

Friends of the alley are leading a petition drive and plan to fill next week’s public hearing with 200 supporters. Last Saturday night, Michelle Pritchard stood outside gathering signatures. “We have already lost our drive-in theater. We don‘t want to lose this.”

Inside, All Star Lanes has a small-town, homey feel. The outside is an unpleasant gray box, but the interior is vintage ’60s, with campy multicolored light fixtures, rose-colored lanes and gaudy furnishings. Tables and chairs are high-school-cafeteria genre. Two pool tables line the off-white walls, and the nearby video games are circa 1980s. The bar has the well-worn look of most of its patrons. Like most good dives, it‘s dark, with neon beer signs, a disco ball and regular food specials like the $2 shrimp cocktail.

The future of the alley comes down to the real-world analysis of “whether the location of the public storage is appropriate for that neighborhood and whether it will be compatible and serving the public need,” said Victor Vallejo, an analyst with the Office of Zoning Administration’s Department of City Planning.

All Star Lanes owner Said Simantob is one of those who‘d like to see the alley join the trash heap of L.A. history. Simantob bought the alley in 1980 and is eager to sell his losing investment to the Utah-based storage company. “I think we have the right to close our business if we want to. We are putting our money into a losing business. We have no choice but to close it.”

Alley manager Roger Tindall says the mainstay of business -- company leagues -- has deserted the place for more modern surroundings. “It still has the look of the ’60s in there. People want automatic scorekeeping and good lanes,” he said.

Although All Star Lanes lacks a modern scoring system and the pins regularly stick, fans of the alley like Montano and Pritchard don‘t care. Says Montano: “In a city that is constantly tearing down old buildings, this is a great piece of history.”


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