Inside the ugly road Bowlmor took to make bowling cool

They proved that hipsters are game for anything — as long as you make the hangout cool enough.

Starting in Manhattan in the late 1990s, the bowling-company Bowlmor, with a new kingpin at its helm, began taking over seedy rundown alleys and turning them into trendy hot spots, wooing 20- and 30-somethings with the promise of quirky booze-filled fun.

No more middle-aged bowlers with beer guts and tacky shirts.

Chad Rachman

Beautiful people now regularly fill Bowlmor’s alleys, including even First Lady Melania Trump, who took her son Barron and stepdaughter Tiffany to the lanes at Chelsea Piers this month with 30 Secret Service agents in tow.

But the push to transform the bowling joints from haggard to hip had an extremely ugly side, former workers told The Post.
In its greedy bid to make strikes and spares cool again, the largest recreational bowling company in the world threw out its aging “average Joe” staff for “trendy, attractive” new hires — even hosting “beauty contests” on Skype to hire the best looking “hippest” candidates, ex-employees say.

Bowlmor AMF — with locations across the country, including in Times Square and the Chelsea Piers site — is now facing more than 50 discrimination complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ten of the plaintiffs are from New York, according to their lawyer, Daniel Dowe.

“These people can’t get away with what they’ve done,’’ insisted former Bowlmor manager Miguel Martinez, 59, referring to company officials.

“You can’t treat people this way,’’ he said. “We’re human beings, we’re not cattle.”

Bowlmor has a long rich history in New York City.

It began operating in Manhattan in 1938, opening an alley on University Place in Greenwich Village.

But while the spot lured top bowlers for decades, by the early 1990s, it was languishing — badly.

Paris Hilton and Bowlmor Lanes owner Tom ShannonGetty Images

Enter Tom Shannon. In 1994, the Darden Business School grad visited the dilapidated alley for a birthday party. Looking past the smoke-stained walls and shady neighborhood regulars, he saw dollar signs on every scratched-up red and white pin.

Shannon, 51, bought the alley in 1997 for $2 million with the help of investors and started transforming its greasy interior into a gleaming nighttime gathering spot for the rich and famous.

He eventually went national with his business plan, buying up tired alleys and breathing lucrative new life into them by installing massive flat-screen TVs, glow-in-the-dark lanes and upscale design elements.

In 2010, Bowlmor Times Square opened in the former New York Times newsroom.

When competitor AMF Bowling Worldwide filed for bankruptcy in 2012, Shannon saw another business opportunity.

In July 2013, Bowlmor Lanes took over AMF and began transforming many of their shabby bowling centers much the same way it had with its New York spots, wooing millennials with night bowling, DJs and eclectic…

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