Hospitality Kingpin Opens New Beer Bar And Game Parlor Right Up Your Alley

         Call him the kingpin of local hospitality.

         Entrepreneur Kyle Brechtel will celebrate the expansion of his and business partner Shawn Barney’s Fulton Alley tonight. The pair of 30-something wunderkinds have spared no expense creating an arty, upscale 12-lane boutique bowling alley serving up delectable craft food and cocktails along the Fulton Street pedestrian mall in the Warehouse District.

         Tonight, and by invitation only, the Fulton Fest 2015 blowout will showcase the venue’s new Beer Bar and Game Parlor featuring interactive classics. Celebrants will get to use a little body English playing indoor bocce ball, Snap-Back table shuffleboard, chess on a giant patio board, darts, foosball and old-school board games in the new lounge area.

         The angle of this free and unplugged component at the adult gaming emporium is to go back to basics.

         “I love watching people bowl here, especially when they put their cell phones down and interact,” co-owner Brechtel said. “We wanted to expand on that. We live in a hyper-connected world, and I’m as connected as anyone, but I enjoy being disconnected for a couple of hours. Our new Beer Bar and Game Parlor is consistent with our craft brand.”

         Brechtel said more than 2.2 million frames have been bowled at Fulton Alley since they opened in December 2013, and the demand for lanes created the need to zero in on providing a diversionary space where customers can have fun while waiting for their turn to score.

         “Fulton Alley appeals to such a broad audience,” he said. “One of the challenges in business is not to be too many things to too many people. We offer a singular brand, but we cater to so many different people. Tourists and locals, young and old, and all across the income spectrum, we are driven by the conventions and have a strong local following.”

         Brechtel said they enjoy a 50/50 split of out-of-towners, who usually visit during the week, and New Orleans customers who make the venue their home alley on the weekends. There are many group and team building events booked in advance, and Fulton Alley will soon roll out a new rewards program to thank local loyalists for their patronage.

         “Our bowling alley and new Game Parlor is an adult focused space, but we welcome family traffic too,” Brechtel said. “We kind of touch on both.”

         What started as a business plan drawn up for a “Managing New Venture Creation” class at Tulane’s Executive MBA program 4 years ago, Fulton Alley became a reality for the co-owners and A. B. Freeman School of Business classmates.

         “Shawn is a developer, and my background is in restaurants and hospitality,” Brechtel said. “We shared a great relationship during those 18 months in grad school getting our MBAs and decided to turn our final project into a real life business.”

         Brechtel, who was already a Harrah’s tenant with a McAlister’s Deli franchise inside the casino since 2004, actually approached landlord Harrah’s 8 years ago with a bowling concept. He credits the gaming goliath as a great partner to work with.

         Now, many in the hospitality industry are trying to work for Brechtel’s management company, Brechtel Hospitality, which currently employs 750 locally who staff Brechtel’s 6 McAlister’s Deli and 3 Twin Peaks franchises, the Acme Oyster House inside Harrah’s casino (owned via licensing deal) and Fulton Alley.

         “There’s been such a tremendous growth in the hospitality business,” Brechtel said. “There are more restaurants now than pre-Katrina. It’s become a challenging market and we’re all competing for talented folks. I can’t ever get behind in terms of having enough good people. We’re constantly focusing on building the right teams for the right locations.”

         Brechtel said he wants to create a culture where they are the “employer of choice” in New Orleans. He knows there are lots of hospitality jobs in the city, but hopes his employees will stay and grow with his businesses and have fun doing so.

         At Fulton Alley, Brechtel said they corner the market in bar games, craft menus, lounge and leisure. Joined by executive chef Mike Nirenberg, formerly of Tivoli & Lee, Oak and Delachaise, Brechtel said Fulton Alley takes the laissez les bon temps rouler attitude New Orleans is known for all the way, but in a new, hip and modern direction.

         Brechtel said their Southern American influenced menu coupled with one of the most extensive collections of liquors in the area set Fulton Alley apart from main bowling competitor Mid-City Lanes Rock ‘n’ Bowl on Carrollton Avenue.

         “As customers and long time fans of Rock ‘n’ Bowl, we were never interested in competing with their live music,” he said. “We overlap on the bowling component, but that’s about it. Our efforts have been to focus on crafting the right drinks and serving great food. We’re more loungey.”

         Brechtel was quick to frame his successes within the context of the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which threatened to throw him and his businesses into the gutter a decade ago.

         “During the week of Hurricane Katrina we were about to open our 4th McAlister’s Deli franchise located in Covington,” he said. “But when the storm hit, a tree fell through it. Our Metairie location took on 8 feet of water and we couldn’t reopen our Harrah’s location because the police were using the casino as a command center. Miraculously, our Kenner location didn’t get any water so we started rebuilding there.”

         Brechtel recalls having to sleep in his car for days and doing everything from washing dishes to cutting lemons. He said his restaurant was the first to reopen on the Southshore when the authorities started letting people back into Jefferson Parish.

         “We pulled together a small team and started every shift by saying, ‘Today will be better than yesterday. Tomorrow will be better than today.’ I told them we’d get through this, and that one day we’d realize we’d be living in a new normal. We did what we had to do.”

         Brechtel remembers receiving hugs from returning locals who were grateful he was able to keep his McAlister’s Deli open for business during the darkest days.

         It’s that theme of resilience that will strike a chord amongst those invited to Fulton Alley’s latest triumph tonight. The site, an adaptive reuse of a former bus barn and ground-floor parking garage, is now a sleek incorporation of reused brick and reclaimed bargeboard combined with soft-light fixtures and candles, with artwork from New Orleans artists Mitchell Gaudet and Michel Varisco. It stands in a location with a long history, serving as the main entertainment corridor during the 1984 World's Fair. Flanked by Manning’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Gordon Biersch, Grand Isle Restaurant and Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino, Fulton Alley is becoming “the place” to have a ball and bowl the perfect game.

 

 

 

 

Fulton Alley
600 Fulton St.
New Orleans, LA  70130
(504) 208-5569
FultonAlley.com
Bowlers under 21 are welcome before 8:00 p.m.

 

 

***Parking Info:

Fulton Alley and Harrah’s Casino offer discounted parking in the Harrah’s Parking Garage at 501 Convention Center during the week and 601 Convention Center (right above Fulton Alley) on the weekends. They offer discounted parking stickers good for 2 hours for $4 each, and can only validate up to 4 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Leslie’s List