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July 9, 2021

Bowling, entertainment center proposed in town

File Photo/Blair Boswell
Warrenton’s 24-lane bowling alley closed abruptly July 1, 2013, after more than five decades in business.
File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The entertainment center would occupy 25,000 square feet of building in the Warrenton Village Center.
It seems like a great step, should it come to fruition. It checks all the boxes (for the desire to expand local entertainment options) and could help us attract more.
— Town Councilman Renard Carlos (At-large)
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Contributing Journalist
If all goes well, an 18-lane bowling and entertainment center would open in Warrenton by early 2022.

The Warrenton Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 20, will consider a special use permit application for the new business in the former Peebles department store space at 251 W. Lee Highway.

Operating as Stars & Strikes Bowling Center LLC, Fauquier native Brett Mills and his wife Patricia plan to invest about $2 million to remodel and equip the 25,000-square-foot space in the Warrenton Village Center. The couple has lined up investors to help finance the project, Mr. Mills said.

Their plans also call for nine-hole “blacklight miniature golf” course, a game arcade and a snack bar that would serve food, soft drinks, beer and wine, Mr. Mills said in a phone interview Friday morning.

“I’ve been working on this about four years,” said Mr. Mills, a 53-year-old software engineer who lives in northern Culpeper County near Amissville.

Beverly Pullen, the county’s interim economic development director, said she has worked with him for more than two years.

“Mr. Mills has been working on his business plan for some time now,” Ms. Pullen said. “I think he’s very committed. It’s been a matter of finding the right place . . . .

“I know he plans to cater to leagues, which will bring people to the county and they will support local stores and restaurants.”

He had hoped to open a bowling alley in the proposed mixed-use development along Walker Drive and Warrenton’s Eastern Bypass. But, after the town council approved the rezoning in July 2017, neighboring homeowners’ litigation stalled the project until the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the town council decision in May 2020. The development remains unbuilt.

Mr. Mills said he considered other options, including part of the former Sears building.

But, after Gordmans — the successor to Peebles — folded before opening last year, “it just turned into my opportunity,” he said.

Pending permit approval, Stars & Strikes plans to sign a 10-year lease with options for five-year renewals, the 1985 Fauquier High School graduate explained.

An avid bowler much of his life, Mr. Mills’ regular presence at the former Warrenton Lanes on Broadview Avenue earned the nickname “Brat” from the late Ed Butler, who managed the bowling alley for decades.

Warrenton Lanes abruptly closed July 1, 2013, after five decades in business.

Mr. Mills said he travels frequently to Front Royal and Manassas to bowl.

The couple hopes their new business will become a community center for recreation, youth groups and nonprofit organizations, along with a venue for local breweries and wineries to sell their products, Mr. Mills said.

“It seems like a great step, should it come to fruition,” said Town Councilman Renard Carlos (At-large). “It checks all the boxes (for the desire to expand local entertainment options) and could help us attract more.”

Ms. Pullen agreed: “This is an opportunity for us to bring a family entertainment venue back into the county . . . . That’s a great thing.”

Warrenton officials also have worked with Mr. Mills for more than two years, according to Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer.

The pandemic delayed business development everywhere, Ms. Schaeffer noted.

“But, coming out of COVID, the demand for recreation is strong; people want to get out and do things,” she said. “It’s just the right time for this.”

The town will try to move his application through the process quickly, Ms. Schaeffer said.

The special use permit would require town council approval, after the planning commission vote on a recommendation.

The local business has no affiliation with a Georgia-based group of bowling centers with the same name or some in New England, Mr. Mills said.

Contact Editor “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

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