The Lucky Strike Bar and Casino and associated Five Valley Bowl off Brooks Street on Dearborn Avenue will close permanently April 30, according to Dan Fix, one of the property's owners.
Fix said the complex has been purchased by the Woodbury Corp. of Salt Lake City, the same firm that owns and developed the South Crossing shopping center on the southeast corner of Brooks and South Reserve streets.
The former location of Missoula's Kmart, South Crossing is home to Kohl's, Cabela's Outpost, PetCo, Boot Barn and other retailers and restaurants.
Fix said he doesn't know what Woodbury has planned for the Lucky Strike and Five Valley Bowl property, but the company intends to demolish the building and won't operate a bowling alley. Woodbury did purchase the bar and casino's liquor license, he added.
Fix said an architect for Woodbury told him the property definitely won't be turned into an Olive Garden or a Chili's restaurant.
A spokesperson for Woodbury didn't return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Fix said he and the other investors were forced to sell because of debt and high overhead associated with running a sports bar and bowling alley.
"We pay $82,000 a year to NorthWestern Energy and $52,000 a year in taxes," he said. "The roof leaks. You just can't make it running a bowling center anymore unless you are in areas with big populations."
Fix said he and the other investors aren't making enough from the sale to pay off infrastructure improvements they've made, and they're in a difficult position because business has slowed and the even-slower summer season is coming.
The building was built in 1957, and has undergone several remodels over the years.
The closure will make Westside Lanes Missoula's only bowling alley.
The Lucky Strike will have a closing party April 29 and a final karaoke party April 30.
Bar manager Jenny Davis said the April 29 party will feature an 1980s-themed costume party, bingo, a DJ and cash prizes.
"It's really sad," Davis said of the closure. "It's the end of an era. I'm very thankful that they didn't wait until the last day to tell us it was closing. I have an amazing bar staff. Not one person has quit or is looking for a replacement job. They're all riding it out."
The kitchen employs about seven people, the bar 15 and the bowling alley another 15, Davis estimated. Then there are the managers, bookkeeper and cleaners.
Mona Moulton, who works the bowling shoe rental desk, said she's sad to see the business close.
"I've been bowling here for 34 years, ever since I moved to Montana," she said.
Likewise, Davis said a lot of customers have fond memories of Five Valley Bowl and the Lucky Strike.
"A lot of customers who have bowled there have kind of grown up there," she said. "There's people that bowl there that came in when they were kids with their grandparents. My husband is 37 and he remembers coming there as a little boy with his great-aunt and uncle. It's really hard on a lot of customers. A lot of customers are sad."
Davis said for many people, the bar is their version of "Cheers."
"This is people's home away from home," she said. "They come in at the same time, they know everybody. Everybody there truly does know 90 percent of the people that walk in there. We know what they drink."
Fix said other small bowling alleys around the state have been calling him asking to buy used equipment.
"If you put this bowling center down in any other town in Montana, it would be the best bowling center around," Fix said.
He said the decision to sell has taken a toll on him, although he plans to continue drilling bowling balls.
"I've been so stressed out about it," he said.