20 Glassford Street, Glasgow
A pre-Brexit world is but a hazy memory for most. But Ian McColm distinctly remembers that he first viewed the building that was to become home to his Glasgow bar and bowling concept Bowlarama before the EU referendum was even a glint in David Cameron’s eye.
He eventually got the keys in November 2017, finally opening it in November last year on Glassford Street on the first floor of what used to be Tiger Tiger.
In that time, the building also changed hands to Hamilton Capital Partners, which put a further spoke in the wheel when it came to finalising the leasing arrangement. Ian is also the operator behind Tiki Bar on Bath Street and Bowlarama’s interior design contains a big nod to it in one of its corners.
The building, as Ian explained to me, had to be just the right dimensions and this was no cakewalk. He explained, “I must have viewed every single former car park and snooker hall in Glasgow before I found the Glassford Street building because it had to be able to accommodate a 30-metre bowling lane and most buildings in Glasgow, I discovered, fall short of this at around 27 metres. The building we’re in is bigger because it is what’s known as a ‘double block’ – from Glassford Street to Hutcheson Street.”
Then there was the installation of the bowling lanes to consider. Ian told me that this was the most nerve-racking day for him and his team. It happened on a Sunday morning and the equipment had to be lifted into the first-floor unit through an opening that isn’t particularly generously sized. As it happened, the whole process went off without
a hitch and when you see it installed and then look at how little room the team had to manoeuvre, this was something else.
Even with four huge bowling lanes in the space pus two bars – one main and one Tiki Bar nightclub ‘corner’ plus another seating area and retro arcade machines and basketball machines – Bowlarama still feels spacious and airy and the walk from one area to the next creates a definite separateness.
The floor throughout is a lovely dark and highly polished parquet with plenty of daylight streaming in from the huge windows overlooking Glassford Street, with a variety of other light sources up in the ceiling, like spotlights and pendants.
Let’s start with the bowling lanes which are immediately to your left as you walk through the doors. Down the wall that runs parallel to the lanes is a huge mural by Glasgow-based artist Rogue One.
Depicted is a couple bowling, where the guy looks Zeus-like, as well as a separate image of Bill Murray from the film, Kingpin. Then there’s the huge Bowlarama sign surrounded by stars. The lanes are as high-tech as you can get, from a company called Brunswick, complete with slick digital displays and fluorescent skittles.
Above it are all the workings in what is an industrial ceiling. And when you’re on the lanes, which are slightly raised from the floor and with railings and protective netting around them, you are afforded a great view of the rest of the space.
Right opposite the lanes is the main bar, which is corner-shaped and opposite a seating area overlooking the bowling lanes. The design of this bar is fairly simple – a wooden ‘Jenga’-style front and blue and pink painted walls with one shelf/preparation area. To the right of this, and set against the front windows is a sizeable seating area where the blue/pink colour scheme continues, in conjunction with neat rows of wooden tables, wicker chairs and orange banquettes beneath those big windows.