His liquor license granted by the city, Steve Sobel is ready to build the long-awaited bowling alley in the University's parking structure on 55th Street.
Sobel, of the North Side restaurant operating concern Spare Time Incorporated, was waiting to begin construction on the bowling alley until he was assured that he could open it when completed. The conditional liquor license, granted last week, gave him that assurance. Construction on the bowling alley, to be named Lucky Strike Hyde Park, begins Monday, he said.
Sobel has an agreement with the University to develop the bowling alley on the north side of the ground floor of the 55th Street and Ellis Avenue parking structure. Plans for the establishment include a bar, dining space, and pool tables in addition to eight lanes of bowling.
"We're hoping to complete construction in 14 weeks," Sobel said, and noted that such a schedule would slate the bowling alley to open in late October or early November. He expressed hope that students will apply for jobs when he begins hiring, "probably about three weeks before we open."
The conditional liquor license assures that a full liquor license will be issued once construction is complete.
The liquor license was actually a minor footnote to the real challenge Sobel faced at City Hall: obtaining a building permit. To get the liquor license,"all I needed was to insert the building permit into the application," Sobel said.
Getting the building permit, however, was not so simple. "City Hall is bogged down in the Buildings Department," Sobel said.
According to Sobel, the department lost the building permit application that he filed last spring. It took over a year for the building permit for Lucky Strike to come through. "It was a complicated project from their point of view," Sobel said. "They wanted to make sure that the building could hold the bowling alley."
A parking garage is required to be able to support 75 pounds of weight per square foot. Because of the weight of the bowling machinery, and especially the equipment for storing beer and food, the department required Sobel to prove that the bowling alley floors could support 120 pounds per square foot. He obliged them, finding a Wisconsin structural engineer who could certify to the city's satisfaction that the structure could accommodate the extra weight. According to Sobel, such specialists are rare.
Even with the figures he needed, Sobel ran into further delays due to bureaucratic foot-dragging. "It took two months every time I made requests for the permit," he said. "It was very frustrating, but the University was very helpful."
A representative of the University talked to the Buildings Department, Sobel said, "and the Buildings Department got a lot nicer."
Finally, this May, the city granted the building permit. Sobel filed the application for a liquor license. Once the application is filed, there is a minimum 45-day waiting period to hear any complaints and objections. "On the 45th day they sent us the confirmation," Sobel said, clearing the way for construction to begin.
Sobel hopes Lucky Strike Hyde Park becomes the community mainstay he envisions. "I'm building it; I hope they come. And I hope they like it," he said.