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D.C.'s Entertainment Retail Boom Continues With 3 New Concepts Looking For Space

New concepts combining food and beverage with entertainment are popping up all over the D.C. area, and at least three such brands are looking for space to enter the market for the first time.

The Chicago location of AceBounce, a ping pong bar/restaurant concept

AceBounce, a brand founded in London that combines table tennis with a bar and restaurant, is on the market for 10K SF to 15K SF in D.C., said Dochter & Alexander Retail Advisors principal Dave Dochter, who is working with the company in its search. AceBounce opened its first U.S. location in Chicago last year. 

Flight Club, a "social darts" concept with a restaurant and bar, under the same ownership as AceBounce, is working with Dochter & Alexander to find a 6K SF to 9K SF space in D.C. The brand has two London locations and is opening its first U.S. outpost in Chicago next year. Both Flight Club and AceBounce are looking in Downtown D.C. and hope to open within 12 months, Dochter said. 

"Food and beverage is a critical component for them," Dochter said of the two concepts. "It's really a cool environment. It's very interactive and the food and beverage is front facing. It's not as if that's an afterthought. That's driving the concept, which is a change for the entertainment concepts. It used to be not as highly designed and heavy on the food and beverage component." 

The largest of the three, Main Event Entertainment, is looking for 40K SF to 50K SF locations in the D.C. suburbs. The bowling and laser tag concept with a bar and restaurant has about 40 locations throughout the U.S. It is already planning to open a location in Columbia, Maryland, and Dochter said he is working with the company in a search for multiple additional D.C.-area locations. 

A heat map shows D.C. is one of the top markets for entertainment spending

The D.C. market is one of the strongest in the U.S. for spending on entertainment, according to Dochter & Alexander's fall retail market report, which it shared with Bisnow ahead of its release. 

The D.C. area has a dense population with wealthy and educated demographics, plus a large office market and strong corporate events business, Dochter said, factors that make it a prime landing spot for these entertainment concepts. As the concepts become more prevalent, they have increased developers' desire to sign them to anchor a project, he said. 

"Now you're seeing owners and landlords more open to entertainment and food and beverage where traditionally they may not have wanted that type of use," Dochter said. 

Punch Bowl Social, a restaurant concept with a bowling alley, arcade and bar, recently announced plans for two D.C. locations. It plans to open in Forest City's Ballston Quarter redevelopment in June and in Jair Lynch's mixed-use development in Capitol Riverfront at 1250 Half St. SE in 2019.  

Pinstripes, another bowling and restaurant concept, recently expanded to a new location at Pike & Rose after entering the D.C. market in Georgetown in 2014. 

A rendering of the Alamo Drafthouse and surrounding retail JBG Smith is planning in Crystal City

New upscale movie theater brands that serve food and alcohol have also been expanding in the D.C. area. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a concept with a bar and restaurant menu, signed on in June to JBG Smith's development in Crystal City. It has also inked deals at JBG Smith's development in Woodbridge and plans to open in MRP Realty's Rhode Island Avenue mixed-use project. JBG also brought a Landmark Cinema, which serves alcohol, to Atlantic Plumbing in Shaw and signed another for Lacebark Alley in NoMa, though that project has been put on hold

To keep up with these new concepts, traditional movie theater chains have been adding to their offerings. 

By year-end, 44% of Regal Cinemas theaters will serve alcohol, and AMC Theatres expects to have 270 theaters offering alcohol by next year, according to Dochter & Alexander's report. 

The Regal Gallery Place in D.C. recently applied for a liquor license and plans to install luxury seating. 

AMC has also installed luxury oversized seats at many theaters, including its two Arlington locations. This eliminated two-thirds of its auditorium capacity but increased its weekday audiences and allowed it to capture premium pricing, Dochter & Alexander's report said.

"With the ability to be at home and stream movies directly, it's a much more competitive landscape," Dochter said. "That's the overarching thing driving all this ... You need another reason to go to the theater. It has become more of a social thing. With the ability to have the elevated offering of reclined seating, alcohol on the social side and food and beverage from the community side. All of retail is trying to capture those same components."