The old-school bowling alley and arcade with old-school prices, Sea Bowl in Pacifica, has announced it is closing permanently in two months, so schedule a visit if you want one more trip down its memory lanes.
Bowling alleys were one of those types of businesses that had a difficult time surviving the pandemic. And even before COVID-19, bowling alleys were a tough model when you need a lot of real estate for a low-margin business that has extremely specialized maintenance requirements. Simply put, goodwill and nostalgia alone will not sustain a bowling alley. The East Bay’s 71-year-old Albany Bowl closed just over two years ago, and now another legacy bowling attraction is heading for the gutter, as the Chronicle reports that Pacifica’s 64-year-old Sea Bowl is closing permanently, effective May 31.
This sucks. I spent a lot of time at Sea Bowl in Pacifica as a kid, and still regularly attend with friends. Why have a bowling alley when you could just have more condos! pic.twitter.com/9LCDSamxkO— Steven Rissotto (@StevenRissotto) March 25, 2023
The letter above posted to Twitter has news that is confirmed on the Sea Bowl website. "It is with a very heavy heart that I inform all of you that Sea Bowl will be closing its doors for good on May 31st, 2023 after more than 60 years in business,” Sea Bowl owner Davis Szeto says on the website. “It was a difficult decision, but it is time to retire. I know this news may come as a shock to many of you and I want to express our deepest gratitude for all the amazing support and loyalty you, our customers, have shown us over the years.”
The alley’s recognizable mascot Mr. Pin may be the Bay Area’s original Instagram trap, and he’s also seen on the charmingly retro sign along Pacific Coast Highway in Pacifica.
Certainly there was a day when there was demand for this bowling alley. SFGate has the story that “When Sea Bowl first opened its doors in March of 1959, it was reportedly so popular that for three nights in a row, it didn’t even bother to close, hosting ‘several thousand’ patrons in a single weekend. It finally shut down for a few hours at 3 a.m. on a Monday morning so construction crews could put finishing touches on the $500,000 project.”
So which pins are still standing on the bowling landscape? Here in SF, we do have Lucky Strike and Mission Bowling Club, both of which are far pricier than an old-timey bowling alley and not kid-friendly. In terms of family-friendly lanes for the traditional birthday party or something, Yerba Buena Ice Skating & Bowling Center is still open but with somewhat irregular hours, and Presidio Bowl remarkably still exists after nearly being shuttered in 2009.
Related: Scenes From Last Night: Knocking Down Cocktails At Mission Bowling Club [SFist]
Image: Curtis L. via Yelp