In Defense of Hipster Bowling

What's worth it? A $150 pair of jeans? A $40 steak? A $20 lap dance? A $4 cuppa joe? Maybe, or maybe not, depending on your personal perspective. Thankfully, Americans still get to freely choose where they squander their hard-earned bucks, and one gal's dream vacation may be another man's pair of tickets to the OSU championship game. I was reminded of all this after reading a colleague's recent blog entry, complaining about the prices at downtown's Corner Alley where an hour's worth of bowling costs $35 for up to 8 people, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. (The rest of the week, the price is $4.25 per person, per game.) Lisa writes that she and a friend had planned to head over to the hipster hotspot on a Friday night, but were "shocked" to learn the prices. "So much for supporting the downtown Cleveland revival," she grouses. "For that price, we figured we could buy a new pair of heels and ruin our manicures ourselves." Cute. But kinda knee-jerk. As Corner Alley sales and marketing guru Mary Lessick points out, the $35 (which, divided by eight, comes to far less than the price of a movie ticket; or, for those with tiny social circles, a modest $8.75 when divided by four) isn't merely for bowling. "It's like buying a cool space to hang out." Sure, part of that purchase price includes the "opportunity" to cough up even more cash for booze and grub. In that regard, it's a lot like catching a concert at HOB or a comedy show at Hilarities. But also included is a chance to mingle with other presumably cool Clevelanders, maybe make some new friends, and -- possibly most important of all -- get the hell outta the house on a Friday night. That's worth something too. So maybe it is too pricey to become part of Lisa's weekly budget. And certainly she has the right to spend her $17.50 (half of the $35 fee) however she chooses. For comparison, though, that's about the cost of a grilled cheese sandwich, a beer, tax, and tip at the Lakewood bar and grill Melt or pizza and a movie at home. But in any case, I'm moved to point out that, like all commodities, bowling at the Corner Alley -- or any other type of entertainment -- is only overpriced if no one is willing to buy it. Apparently, in this instance, that's not the case. "We've been swamped!" Lessick says. "On Friday and Saturday nights, we've had huge waits for a lane." Obviously, for some Clevelanders, the price is right. -- Elaine T. Cicora

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