Midtown Ventura has found its anchor.
When Jeremy and Josh Pemberton began searching for the location for their next big venture, the Ventura Bowling Center was at the top of the list. The 70-year-old building made for the perfect location for Discovery, a multifaceted entertainment hub featuring nine bowling lanes, a farm-to-table restaurant, space for national touring acts and a variety of table games — “a phenomenal restaurant with a social bowling experience,” in the words of Jeremy Pemberton.
Down the street from the Fresh & Easy supermarket — the last major construction in the area over the past few years — Discovery is days away from its soft opening on Dec. 10.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Jeremy and Josh scrambled to put in the finishing touches to the center’s bar and kitchen. Above the bowling lanes, a Big Ass Fan (official name) stirred the sawdust-strewn air as carpenters built tables made from repurposed materials, the very same material that once made up the Ventura Bowling Center’s original lanes.
Discovery’s nine lanes use a method of pin setting that disqualifies them from being used for official league bowling, but Jeremy said that he believes most guests won’t notice a difference.
“We’re using the same equipment and standards that have been used internationally for the past 65 years,” said Jeremy. “Everyone in the world uses the same equipment that we’re using except for America because the manufacturers of the big equipment lobby the bowling conference and dictate league play.”
Bowling isn’t the only way in which the brothers are pushing against the norm. For the bar service, several local beers and wines will be on tap, as well as two premixed cocktails. An area nearer to the lanes will feature a self-serve tap system — guests will wear an RFID bracelet to pour themselves beer or wine by the ounce without leaving the floor.
The construction project began in August and Discovery is moving right along — and will soon have a substantial impact on the local economy.
Originally, the Pembertons estimated the cost of construction to hover around $2.5 million, but with the addition of a few items now rather than waiting until the grand opening in January, Discovery’s total budget increased to closer to $3 million, a total backed by a group of local private investors.
Discovery officially opens on Jan. 22 and will employ 105 people, half of whom will make up the server and bartender force. The kitchen features a wood-fired oven, sits on 2,000 square feet (making it one of the largest kitchens in Ventura) and will serve locally sourced ingredients.
One of the major themes of the construction focused on keeping the history of the building intact. For 57 years, the location hosted the Ventura Bowling Center and was itself a staple to Midtown.
“There’s way too much history here in the DNA to deny that being a part of the building,” said Jeremy. “It’s been around 57 years and we want it to be around for another 57.”
Among the discoveries within the old building was the ceiling itself. Uncovered after removing the previously installed lower ceiling, the arched construction is one of Ventura’s hidden architectural gems — a latticed framework of wooden beams give the building a vintage charm and has become the centerpiece for Discovery’s theme.
Behind the building in the spacious parking lot, the brothers plan on hosting at least 12 events a year, from concerts to boutique fairs, in an area that can host up to 1,500. Adjacent to the bowling lanes and just behind the dining area, several billiard tables, a shuffleboard and foosball tables will be set up; but on certain nights, a large stage will make up the venue’s concert area, large enough for national touring acts.
For the grand opening, Jeremy promises surprise guests but is mum on the details.
Community Development Director Jeffrey Lambert has been a supporter of the project from its inception. Ideally, he’d like to see Midtown mimic downtown in growth.
“We have this downtown core that has the flavor of authentic, historic downtown with shops and entertainment venues,” said Lambert. “Now [The Pembertons] come in and create this attraction in Midtown. I hope it might spark other property owners into realizing that it’s worth investing because there’s a benefit in the end.”
Discovery will have its soft opening with limited food service, bowling and the bar available on Dec. 10. From Jan. 22 to 26, the center will host its grand opening. Jeremy hopes that the brothers’ investment becomes a focal point for the community and continues the legacy that the Ventura Bowling Center began.
“That whole mindset of building for a long-term investment allowed us to do things the right way,” said Jeremy. “Taking a 50-year approach allowed us to appreciate what did last here for 50 years."