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Quick and Dirty

The Last Frame

Seidel's Bowling Lanes Closes its Doors For Good

Tim Hill

By Neil Ferguson | Posted 5/30/2007

Seidel's Bowling Center, one of only two remaining duckpin alleys in Baltimore City, and three-time City Paper Best of Baltimore award winner, has closed.

Increasing rent put an end to the Belair Road classic, an old-school neighborhood institution that had operated for 78 years, making it the second oldest duckpin alley in the city. The oldest, Patterson Lanes on Eastern Avenue, is now all that remains in the city of a once thriving local sporting tradition.

The evening of Monday, May 15, saw Seidel's host the Shrine of the Little Flower League's last game (a league that played here for over 50 years), and then manager Lance O'Hara closed its doors.

O'Hara, 47, started running the business back in 1984. Having just graduated from college, his mother persuaded him to go into partnership with his father, Robert, who had run the alley with business partner Glen Berry since 1967. On taking over, he chose to retain the founder's name.

"It had been run by three generations of Seidels," O'Hara Jr says. "It's been known as Seidel's forever."

Over the years Seidel's continued to draw upon a loyal following of local families and dedicated duckpin bowlers. In recent years the Roots Café's bimonthly Rock and Bowl events drew curious hipsters in search of retro chic. But O'Hara says that, historically, around 75 percent of his business was league-oriented, and that remains a largely seasonal attraction. "I mean, when it's cold and rainy outside, people want to come in and bowl," he says. "When it's hot and sunny, they don't."

Three years ago, O'Hara (now the sole proprietor; his father retired in 1996) sold the building but kept the bowling alley business. Spiraling rent, however, has contributed to his decision to close the alley.

"Plus the crime round here's crazy," he adds. "We've been robbed with guns in our faces a couple of times. It's just not friggin' worth it."

O'Hara says he now plans to "relax" with his other business, O'Hara's Irish Pub, located nearby. And he sees precious little hope in this small slice of blue-collar Baltimore history being preserved.

"Not unless a white knight rides in with a whole bunch of money," he says with a resigned shrug.

As for the future? It appears the building's owners may well turn Seidel's into a furniture store.

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