With a pretty straightforward name, the new Mister’s Bar and Lanes in East Aurora is a revamped bowling alley that might seem like it has a pretty simple backstory, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Co-owner of Mister’s, John Becker knows a thing or two about bowling alleys, less specifically, he knows a lot about the family-friendly amusement business. Working as an international consultant in the industry for more than a decade, Becker has traveled from Kuwait to Kazakhstan to help organizations set up family entertainment centers (think: Dave and Buster’s) in shopping malls.
During a recent phone call, Becker told me about the barcade-influenced concept he and his business partner Arty Petch have for Mister’s, and Becker said this concept is essentially the future of bowling alleys.
“It’s a model that I think a lot of bowling alleys in North America, if they want to survive, are going to have to do,” Becker said. “They’re going to have to maybe limit the number of lanes they currently have, and make a bigger bar and restaurant offering; augmenting it with a game room.”
Mister’s is more than just a bowling reboot, however. It also has a small distilling operation. Whether you think that makes it a unicorn or a Frankenstein’s monster depends on your point of view, but the story behind the distilling operation is nothing short of fantastic:
“Well, oddly enough, necessity is the Mother of Invention,” Becker said with a chuckle. “Basically, when I was living overseas in Kuwait, it’s a dry country. I was over there doing civilian work putting an entertainment center into the 360 Mall in Kuwait City, and other of the guys… I probably shouldn’t even be saying this but, he kind of showed me the ropes on a still that he had made. I learned a lot and refined my process over there.
“It’s funny because they knew it was happening too. They knew what was going on. You would go to the grocery store and they actually sold red grape juice, white grape juice and apple juice, with the sugar and yeast right next to it. So you had all the ingredients right there in the supermarket and you could make your own wine and beer. Distilling was limited to a few people because it is something that you kind of have to know what you’re doing. You don’t want to have somebody just winging it!”
Mister’s Bar and Lanes may be the marriage of modern entertainment and a Kuwaiti bootlegging operation, but how is it? The soft opening food menu is very ‘classic bowling alley’ (pizza, wings and burgers), but we’re told to expect more on-trend options, like charcuterie, in the near future. In addition to spirits made in-house, the beverage program also features pop and local/craft/macrobrewery beer.
The revamped bowling alley might sound upscale, but I found on a recent visit that it’s still mostly “the Lanes” East Aurora residents knew and loved. There’s a big open area for dining, windowed garage door that can be opened in nice weather, a kid-friendly game room and TVs watching sports.
Becker assured me that they’re trying to hold true to bowling’s wallet-friendly roots.
“I know when people think of bowling alleys, they think of a cheaper night out and I really think that’s gonna hold true at Mister’s,” he said. “We’ve got Molson and Labatt on draft here. We’ve got a $3 mini-pitcher special for all-day, every day. I think we’re gonna be – not a cheap night out – but something that isn’t going to break the bank.”
Mister’s Bar and Lanes
206 Main St, East Aurora, NY 14052
Hours: Monday – Thursday 2 p.m. – 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday 2 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.