Ongoing debate on whether a gay league was forced out of Hollywood Bowl

Members of the LGBT bowling leagues. Photo courtesy Towleroad.

Some controversy between the gay bowling league PCBL (Portland Community Bowling League) and their former home Hollywood Bowl has erupted on the interwebs this week with the league claiming they were forced out due to homophobia and HB flatly denying the accusation.

The most complete form of the accusation comes from a Towleroad reader who makes this claim:

I am part of a LGBT bowling league in Portland, Oregon that has been a fixture in the city since the ’70’s. For over a decade we have called Hollywood Bowl our home alley. However, within the last couple of weeks we have watched Hollywood Bowl become increasingly unfriendly to our league.

We received notice through our league administrator that bowling leagues do not fit Hollywoods new business model and thus we are being asked to find a different alley. We were sad at the news but accepted the scenario as we were assuming that all leagues were being asked to leave. Recently, we became aware that the only leagues that were being asked to leave were the two gay leagues and a league that is administrated by two lesbians. All other leagues are being allowed to stay as they fit into Hollywood’s new family friendly business model.

Owner Mark Frank has responded publicly via the Mercury saying:

…accusations of bowling homophobia are 100 percent not true. At his three bowling alleys statewide, says Frank, they decided to stop all league bowling on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, to open the lanes up to more customers during prime time. “The industry has changed. It’s gone from primarily league bowling to mostly open play bowling. This has nothing to do with who they are, it’s a business decision to have lanes open when people are wanting them,” says Frank. “There’s a couple people in the Friday night league who are trying to sabotage this.

Then there’s some more back and forth about the league being offered a weeknight and the reader responding that this was a last ditch effort, offered after initial media releases, by Hollywood Bowl to appear friendly, and that the offer would not have worked logistically. Commenter Daniel says this:

Mr frank did not mention a couple of facts. 1. Out of three leagues that bowl on Friday night, we the GLBT were the only league asked to move, the othere leagues were not…so much for clearing the decks to free up the house for “open”bowling. 2. Mr. Frank has not heard one word from anyone on our league, so in othere words we have NOT declined his offer. In his letter to us he stated that they needed to act on this change of business plan to remain a pillar of financial strength in the bowling community…I can not speak for the other leagues, but for ourselves, and yes we were offered othere nights to move to…we as a league have not made a final decision. I can tell you some other fun facts though…we spend upwards of $2500 a week there, we bowl 29-32 weeks a year, (you doing the math mr frank), the Sunday league is almost as big as us, so I am sure they spend about the same. The GLBT tournament held here in Portland, has also had their agreement from Hollywood pulled as well.

When asked to comment PCBL League Administrator Mike Nelson responded that they were, “…consulting with various groups at this time prior to making an official statement.” He offered no date of when such a statement was forthcoming.

Hollywood Bowl General Manager Melissa McCusker provided this email, dated February 1, 2012, sent to another gay league, PDX Pride, detailing their plans for rearranging the league schedule:

Dear PDX Pride League Officers,

This is a notice to regretfully inform you that we will no longer be able to extend you lanes at Hollywood Bowl on Friday nights for the 2012-2013 bowling season.  We at Hollywood Bowl want you to know that we will do everything in our power to accommodate your league on a different night, and would like to extend an invitation to bowl on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Please understand that with the economy the way it is, we need to take measures to ensure that Hollywood Bowl continues to be a pillar of economic stability in the bowling world, especially for our employees.  We are taking measure now to ensure we are still able to provide all bowlers a place for years to come.

We at Hollywood Bowl apologize for an inconvenience this move may cause to you or your league members, and deeply hope we can all work together to find an alternative night for your league to bowl for the 2012-2013 league season.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions.  Thank you for your understanding in this matter and I look forward to speaking with you all soon.

Although I have not found public new sources dated before February 1, initial rumblings began on Facebook so it is difficult to discern a definitive timeline.

So what do you think? Homophobia? Misunderstanding? Drama? Comment below.

9 comments to Ongoing debate on whether a gay league was forced out of Hollywood Bowl

  • I am curious as to weather other leagues will be allowed to bowl during prime hours. If they are, then I would say it is an obvious case of homophobia. Otherwise, it all seems speculative. Would you mind following up on this?

  • jo

    I wrote to the Company General Manager, Heather, and asked her about the discrepancy between Mark’s statement that all Friday-Sunday leagues were asked to move and the league members who claim that no other leagues were asked to move. Here’s her response:

    “There were no leagues on Saturday already…The Sunday
    PCBL League was approached and asked if they would switch
    from 3:00pm Sunday to either 10:00am or 6:30pm which would
    allow us to have as large chunk open for birthday parties and
    open play. The league being at 3:00 on Sunday just made it
    hard to book anything else.

    Out at Rose Bowl I had to ask my Friday Flyers league of
    22 years to move…It was very hard for me to do. This is
    a league of seniors, twenty something, and people of all walks
    of life. We are trying to find them a spot for next fall but I
    only have 16 lanes. This is also happening in the Tri Cities
    at Spare Time Lanes.

    The Nisei league on Friday night had not be approached at
    Hollywood yet because the PDX [pride league] had the largest portion of
    lanes and if they did not move it would be pointless to ask
    the Nisei because we would still be in the same situation
    as they take less lanes.

    Anyone who know us knows this was never directed anyone
    personally and simply a business decision to fight the damage
    the economy has done to us.


  • jo

    I also wrote to Mark Frank, the owner, and basically asked him if he could clear up any of the confusion/conflicting accounts regarding whether they were asked to move or leave and whether they were the only league asked to move or not.

    Here’s his response:

    “Thank you for the email…Just to let you know the facts, which were posted on our Web site for a few days after this all broke. Nobody was asked to leave Hollywood Bowl or any of our centers. We asked 4 mixed leagues and the Friday night and Sunday day leagues at Hollywood Bowl and 2 other centers we own to move to different time slots so we can complete the transition from a league only model to a league and open play schedule for all bowlers. We’ve been making this transition for a couple years, which is critical for our company to remain profitable and continue in business. League bowling is down over 50% during the last 5 years, and many centers have closed their doors for good. Our goal is to not let this happen, and the solution is to cater to open play bowlers on weekends, and keep league bowling strong Sunday – Thursday nights, and Monday – Friday days. We tested all time slots here in the Tri Cities, and revenues increased dramatically. Yes, it has been a painful transition, and my managers did not handle this as I would have liked. I had asked them in early January to figure out how to open a few lanes up on Friday nights for open play, and their presentation to the Friday night league was misunderstood. Melissa and Heather tried to clarify and offer a number of solutions for the league, but the league had made their decision to move. The league secretary has apologized to Melissa for the way the league members responded. This is about economics, and nothing else. Proprietors need to be able to adjust their business to the changing industry if they hope to remain in business. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

    Mark Frank
    Proprietor – Hollywood Bowl”

    My apologies for the Wall of Text™, but that’s how I received it.

    This whole thing has really bummed me out because I love bowling there (and we’re actually starting to do sorta well!) but obviously don’t want to support bigotry & discrimination. But if it’s just a miscommunication then I don’t want to boycott them based on rumors. It’s been really tough getting at the truth.

    The part about the league secretary apologizing is pretty interesting, though (if accurate). I emailed him a follow-up question to ask if he could provide the secretary’s email address so that I could ask about that part but I haven’t heard back yet.

    • Thanks for your further investigation. Another thing that can be learned some this incident seems to be full disclosure/organization in dealing with the press as well as I have contacted both Hollywood Bowl and the PCBL have have not received nearly the depth of information presented here.

  • jo

    “Recently, we became aware that the only leagues that were being asked to leave were the two gay leagues and a league that is administrated by two lesbians. All other leagues are being allowed to stay as they fit into Hollywood’s new family friendly business model.”

    I think the above is incorrect.

    Recesstime Sports has a league that bowls on Sunday nights (and AFAIK they aren’t a gay league). I wrote to a member and asked if they knew anything about this and was told that they were notified last August that moving from Sunday night was a possibility as they were trying to free up more lanes for open play.

    IMO this is starting to look like a matter of miscommunication rather than discrimination.

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