Woolworth bowls over Birmingham

Photo by Amy Lawhon/Staff Photographer
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The Woolworth features bowling alleys, arcade games, and an extensive menu.

Bella Tylicki
Staff Reporter

Featuring duckpin bowling and exhibiting a variety of classic pub games such as foosball, ping pong and darts, The Woolworth Refreshment and Recreation brings a twist on the traditional eat-and-drink to Five Points South. Featuring duckpin bowling and exhibiting a variety of classic pub games such as foosball, ping pong and darts, The Woolworth Refreshment and Recreation brings a twist on the traditional eat-and-drink to Five Points South. 

The Woolworth is a “social house,” combining grub and games on a large scale. John Boone of Orchestra Partners, the developer of the project, credited the model to Punchbowl Social, a company with social houses in 14 cities across the country.  

“[The space] was perfect for bowling lanes, but we didn’t want to do a conventional bowling alley,” said Boone. “Its size allowed for a large kitchen and gaming area, but we didn’t want to replicate a food court or arcade. So, we decided to do a Birmingham take on what Punchbowl Social has done in lots of other cities.”

 According to Boone, the building was unfit for modern retail and lacked character, so he and his partner knew its fate would be unique.  The only original feature that remains is the old Woolworth’s soda fountain tile which can be seen at the base of the steps leading to the rooftop deck. 

“I live in Five Points South today, a block from The Woolworth, and our hope is that this concept will help remind everyone of how much there is to see and do in one of Birmingham’s most diverse neighborhoods,” Boone said. “Woolworth will bring new energy to Five Points South,” said Russell Hooks, proprietor of a Birmingham lifestyle blog called Happenin’s in the ‘Ham. “It provides a place where you can eat, drink, socialize and play games!” 

The full-service bar boasts 24 beers on draft, and, consistent with the trending “social house” motif, the menu consists mostly of shareables. According to Hooks, The Woolworth experience will draw people to Five Points, bringing traffic to other businesses in the area. 

“I’m spending more and more time in Five Points. There is so much revitalization going on, you don’t want to miss out on the changes in the neighborhood,” Hooks said. “I see Five Points becoming an open-container entertainment district and connecting parts of the area that are adjacent to the main intersection. It is on track to grow the same way Avondale has.” 

Hooks praised the Five Points Alliance, the district’s chief economic-development propeller, for its efforts to revitalize the historic neighborhood

“It’s a great time to be working, playing, living and investing in Five Points South,” said Steve Alexander, chair of the Five Points Alliance.  According to Alexander, the opening of The Woolworth is “a great part of a bigger story.” 

Since the closing of Skky Night Club, the blemish on the face of Five Points, last November, ten new businesses have opened their doors within one block of Five Points’ iconic Storyteller Fountain. The Woolworth is in good company in Five Points.

Other new kids on the block include restaurants, bars, a men’s salon and a Thai ice cream shop, bringing new life to a district full of beloved pillars such as The Original Pancake House, Highlands Bar & Grill and Golden Temple that have been in Five Points since last century.

 “Stay tuned as our plans to improve the neighborhood parks and generally make this a more walkable and bike-able place to live come together soon,” Alexander said.
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