If you took in a show at Brooklyn Bowl last year, you helped it become one of the most popular club venues in New York City.
The Peter Shapiro and Charley Ryan-owned joint was ranked the busiest NYC venue of 2017 — and the seventh busiest in the world — by the ticket-sale tracking magazine Pollstar last month. Pollstar ranks club venues that submit ticket sales, with larger notable music spots like Madison Square Garden not included.
With more than 165,000 tickets sold last year, it’s without a doubt the nine-year-old spot’s most notable guests, like Guns N’ Roses, Elvis Costello and the Roots, who are the driving force behind launching it to its current success. But the building’s charm, a diverse booking lineup and swarm of nearly 200,000 social media fans help too.
“We try to fit into multiple worlds,” talent buyer Lucas Sacks says. Boasting a 16-lane bowling alley, draft beer bar and restaurant, the Wythe Avenue venue’s main stage is only a piece of the appeal. “People come here for all different reasons.”
Falling on Pollstar’s list alongside well-known clubs like Boston’s House of Blues, which ranked No. 1 worldwide, Brooklyn Bowl’s “sweet spot is those customers who see it as an adult playground with something for everyone,” Sacks, 28, adds.
The venue has submitted its ticket sales to the trade magazine quarterly since 2015. This year marks the highest ranking it has seen since placing third for NYC sales the two years prior, beating out Brooklyn Steel and Terminal 5.
Some factors outside of Brooklyn Bowl’s control (the closure of the beloved Webster Hall and higher-capacity spots choosing against submitting their sales) influenced its 2017 ranking, but the venue’s buying team says its multipurpose structure and an ever-evolving scene in Williamsburg has helped boost interest since 2009.
“When we first opened, it was basically Brooklyn Brewery and Brooklyn Bowl in this North Williamsburg industrial area,” Sacks recalls. “Now, there are five hotels within a two-block radius of the venue.”
Adding that gentrification has helped change the “dynamic” of local residents, Sacks says when he first started his gig in 2012 concertgoers in Manhattan told him they weren’t quite willing to make the trek from Manhattan to Brooklyn to visit the club.
“People used to tell me they didn’t know how to even take the subway here,” he says. “They were then just starting to explore the area.”
Now, the venue sees recurring Brooklyn clientele, he adds. Averaging 11 shows per-week and 500 per-year, Brooklyn Bowl also draws patrons from the tristate area and overseas to see niche performers like indie rock band The Hold Steady or disco group Escort.
“We do different genres of music regularly, even within one night,” Colin Keegan, the venue’s junior talent buyer, says. “You might end up with a New Orleans band or bluegrass show as the early band and then an old-school hip-hop DJ or MC as the late-night. We’re able to get in multiple types of crowds in one night whereas most venues can’t.”
The venue, formerly home to an ironworks-foundry building in the 1880s, also stands out with a unique carnival-style interior. Coney Island-esque banners, nearly 100 hand-painted knockdown punks and “shoot-em-up” game targets — all custom made — adorn the walls. The main bar is made of original and recycled wood from the Coney Island boardwalk and the concert stage floor was constructed with old truck tires.
“[Early on] people heard it was interesting,” Sacks notes. “That’s what helped get them to come back. They like the different genres of music, but they really enjoy seeing it here.”
Following the success of the Williamsburg spot, well-known concert promoter/entrepreneur Peter Shapiro and Charley Ryan opened a copycat Las Vegas location in 2014 of the same name. Its interior was also mimicked to bring a piece of Brooklyn to Nevada, Keegan, 26, adds. The club ranked No. 17 on Pollstar’s 2017 list, selling just over 120,000 tickets.
For a list of upcoming shows at the Brooklyn location, visit brooklynbowl.com/brooklyn/music.