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Westerwood may gain small bowling alley

by Eric Ginsburg

 eric@yesweekly.com

The possibility of a small bowling alley adjacent to the Westerwood Tavern is an idea worth waiting for, worth your life savings and then some — at least to Westerwood bartender and partner in the venture Mike Bosco. The planned four-lane alley would occupy a long, vacant building behind the bar near the Greensboro’s planned Downtown Greenway, but the idea has hit a snag.

Bosco has been working since December to bring the plan to fruition, meeting with staff at the city of Greensboro, Downtown Greensboro Inc. Board Chair Dawn Chaney, who owns the empty building, and others, as well as hiring lawyer and former state senator Don Vaughan to help navigate the process. Opening a business is never a simple process, but Bosco and his partners didn’t expect to come up against a problem with the fire code that doesn’t allow for a doorway between two businesses allowing people to walk between the two without going outside.

“There’s a law that says in North Carolina that you can’t go between two buildings if you don’t own them [both].” Bosco said. “There’s really no way around that and that’s really what everybody behind the scenes has been trying to do.”

The bowling alley would be attached to the back of Westerwood Tavern and neither building owner is interested in selling though both are supportive. Last week Bosco, Vaughan, Westerwood Tavern owner Jason Paul and Chaney met with Assistant City Attorney Tom Carruthers and Councilman Zack Matheny to discuss their options.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to do it and we even kicked around the idea of tacking on a legislative change,” Matheny said, adding that Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford) seemed supportive. “Neither one of them wants to sell… probably rightfully so. I wouldn’t want to sell either.

I see these things in Raleigh and I’d love to have one here.”

Matheny said the bowling alley would be great for the neighborhood and the city, adding that he thought it was a cool idea and that he would go there. Bosco said he was very impressed that Matheny took the time to sit down with them and go over various options, saying the councilman is “really trying to help [and] stepped up to the plate,” helping clear up what could be done for him. Bosco also said Chaney has “bent over backwards” to help make the plan a reality.

The bowling alley would be smaller than others in the city and follows the model used in a few places throughout the country, Bosco said. The small size would allow it to be easily rented out for community events or fundraisers, he said, which is an important aspect of the project.

Dawn Chaney said she has been patiently waiting and trying to make the project work because she is behind the idea.

“It does meet the needs of what other cities are doing with that type of a venue,” she said. “My vision is that we develop that whole area there. As the greenway develops, that whole corridor there will change. Downtown Greensboro inside that greenway will be rapidly developing.”

Chaney owns several commercial properties in the immediate area, including an empty building that was recently renovated and shares the same lot and others along Prescott Street. She would like to see a small food place — like a sandwich or frozen yogurt shop — in the area and said the bowling alley could attract other business and help define the area, but Chaney won’t hold the property for the project indefinitely.

Bosco said he hopes to have some resolution on the issue in the coming weeks and Matheny is hopeful it will move forward but said the city’s hands are tied unless there are changes at the state level. Paul, who owns the bar, declined to comment and Vaughan could not be reached in time for the article.

There are legitimate reasons for the existing fire code, Chaney said, which leaves her with the question, “What can we do to still fall within the framework of the legalities and protection and still have it work?”

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