The old Rileys department store building at Marsh and Chorro streets may be reborn as a bowling alley, restaurant and bar. That’s a big shift from its past life as one of the city’s largest retail spaces. But as long as the venue is carefully designed and well-operated — with reasonable limits on late-night noise — it should be an asset to downtown.
For as lovely as downtown is, we don’t have a great selection of entertainment venues. There are movie theaters and lots of restaurants and bars, but live music venues are limited. And except for Thursday night Farmers Market, there aren’t many places where largish crowds can congregate.
The selection for families with kids is especially meager. No Chuck E. Cheese’s or any equivalent. No carousel (except at Christmas). No mini-golf.
A first-class bowling alley with space for banquets and parties would help fill an entertainment void, especially if it caters to all demographics: families with children, teenagers, college students and older adults.
Besides, the old Rileys has sat vacant long enough. The distinctive red brick building with the green awnings has been empty going on three years, ever since Sports Authority relocated to the old Borders in the Madonna Road shopping center. That’s a waste of space, and it doesn’t exactly signal a thriving local economy.
One caveat: As much as we like the idea of a bowling alley, let’s not go overboard with the wining and dining establishments. We don’t want to see downtown become too focused on eating and drinking at the expense of retail.
Remember, downtown San Luis Obispo remains a shopping hub for vacationers who are in the mood to buy, as well as for locals who make it a habit to support downtown merchants.
We can’t afford to lose that edge; ahealthy mix of retail businesses and restaurants is good for merchants, it’s convenient for SLO-goers and it helps boost sales tax revenue.
So, yes, we look forward to learning more about plans for the bowling alley, which are supposed to go to the Planning Commission in a few months. And we may be pushing our luck, but in the not-too-distant future, how about an Anthropologie and/or Nordstrom Rack?