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Inside Punch Bowl Social, Ballston’s New Funhouse for Millennials

Eater logo Eater 12/6/2018 Tierney Plumb
a group of people sitting at a table in a restaurant: The nucleus of Punch Bowl Social’s third floor is a 360-degree bar accented by a lodge-inspired chandelier — a massive mashup of antlers. © Rey Lopez/Eater DC The nucleus of Punch Bowl Social’s third floor is a 360-degree bar accented by a lodge-inspired chandelier — a massive mashup of antlers.

The new entertainment complex has bowling, foosball, and karaoke

Denver-based “eatertainment” brand Punch Bowl Social will open its first location on the East Coast this weekend in Northern Virginia, rolling out a bevy of interactive games — think bowling and foosball — for young professionals in Arlington to play while enjoying bar food and alcoholic punch bowls.

Located at 4238 Wilson Boulevard in Ballston, the new location is scheduled to open on Saturday, December 8. Punch Bowl Social has grown to 15 locations over six years. A D.C. location is expected to open in Navy Yard in the spring.

The latest color-soaked addition is the first Punch Bowl Social with three floors — and the kickoff to Forest City Realty Trust’s $330 million transformation of Ballston Common mall into Ballston Quarter. As an ode to Arlington’s former life as an amusement park, the cavernous space plays up a circus theme. Framed paintings of elephants, light fixtures that look like trapeze bars, and vintage circus tickets are splashed across walls.

Founder and CEO Robert Thompson, who lived and worked in the D.C. area in his 20s, drew other inspiration from the area to craft the look. Geometric patterns mimic D.C.’s Metro station architecture and the Pentagon, and there’s two “Virginia is for Lovers”-inspired karaoke rooms. Huge #ARL letters hover above its bowling lanes.

Punch Bowl’s Colorado-based design team wanted to create a trippy ski lodge feel, adorning the space with turquoise antler wallpaper, tree stump tables, and shiny white deer busts.

Because millennials are the target market, promoting sustainability was key. In partnership with Shinola, Punch Bowl built a stationary bike near the patio that can generate enough alternative energy to charge a phone. There’s also not one bottled beer on-site, only cans and 12 brews on draft, most of which are local. Pine trees killed by the notorious mountain pine beetle in Colorado have been salvaged and turned into dining tables.

Punch Bowl Social’s hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to midnight on Sunday.

Scroll on for a look inside Ballston’s new three-story millennial funhouse:

a display in a building © Rey Lopez/Eater DC
A third-story diner, accessible through the newly revitalized mall, will spin out chicken and waffles with chipotle syrup and burgers.
a bench in front of a building © Rey Lopez/Eater DC
A fun idea in the works is posting messages on Punch Bowl Social’s gym-facing patio that read something like: “these calories are what you’re working for,” Thompson tells Eater.
a blue boat sitting on top of a building © Rey Lopez/Eater DC
The first-floor cocktail bar sets the playful scene via checkerboard flooring, brass circus animal accessories, and antique funhouse mirrors.
a bunch of items that are on display in a store © Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Bowling from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. is $10/hour per person and $2 extra after 5 p.m. until close (and includes shoe rental). Colorful socks hanging from clotheslines retail for $7.
© Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Along with multiple bowling lanes, liquored-up patrons can take of vintage video games, shuffleboard, ping pong, darts, private karaoke rooms, an outdoor bocce court, and skee ball.
a store in a brick building © Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Karaoke rooms cost $35 an hour (for up to four) and $45 for five to 10 people.
© Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Punch Bowl Social’s in-house design team packed lots of reclaimed wood and whimsical accents across the space. Some couches are topped with metal hands giving the peace sign.
a table topped with a blue chair © Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Punch Bowl Social spared no expense on its rare imported foosball table by Bonzini. “This is old-school Italian craftsmanship,” says Thompson.
a dining room table in front of a building © Rey Lopez/Eater DC
A pastel-hued room on the second level — dubbed “Holiday Lodge” — pays homage to Arlington’s former life as a Victorian-era amusement park, infamous for its 1906 great elephant escape. Red neon signage is visible from Wilson Boulevard.

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