Beach Bowl strikes out after split with landlord over rent payments
Bowling alley's owners say they could no longer afford legal fight over lease
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – For decades, Beach Bowl was the place to go in Jacksonville Beach for those with time to spare – until this past weekend when the bowling alley suddenly closed for good.
Since then, News4Jax has learned that the closure followed a lengthy and pricey legal dispute between the business owners and their landlord, who were unable to strike a deal over the rising cost of rent.
"Welcome to Beach Bowl where the good times have stopped rolling. We have closed our doors. Thank you for your years of patronage," the answering machine now says in place of its typical message.
Last month, a judge ordered the business owners to leave the property and pay $342,000 in back rent after finding that they had broken the terms of their lease, according to Duval County court records.
The business owners told News4Jax they have paid what they owed.
COURT DOCUMENTS: View a copy of the judge's order
The Oct. 22 ruling stems from a lawsuit filed in May 2017 by the property owner, H & H Enterprises, Inc., over a dispute regarding the lease. Under the original lease, the bowling alley's owners paid $14,348 a month. The two sides couldn't agree on rent when the lease came up for renewal in 2017.
While the property owner got an appraisal saying the property was worth more than $34,000 a month, an appraisal obtained by the business owners valued the property at $18,000 a month. The court ruled that the appropriate rent payment would be just over $26,000 a month.
Circuit Judge Kevin Blazs ruled that even though the two sides were locked in a legal dispute over their lease, the business owners were obligated to pay the rate determined by the court. Since they kept paying the original amount, Blazs found the business owners had violated their lease.
As co-owner Miles Batt pointed out during a phone interview with News4Jax, that amount was $12,000 more than they originally paid. Batt, who's named in the lawsuit along with his wife, said they tried to keep the business open, but they couldn't afford to keep up with the legal costs.
Bowling leagues that used to play at Beach Bowl will be moving to Mayport Bowling Center, Batt said. He said while the family is trying to salvage some of the equipment and decorations for future use, he acknowledged much of the bowling alley's history could wind up sold – or lost.
"We cannot afford any more legal fees," Barbara Batt wrote in a Facebook post Saturday. "Instead of upgrading the facilities the last years we had to pay attorneys. After winning first case another case started. I think you just might get condos or something. But it is their property to do as they wish."
The abrupt closure of the bowling alley, which has been a landmark in Jacksonville Beach for decades, caught customers off-guard. Eric Olson told News4Jax he's been going to the bowling alley since he was a child. When he became a father, he began bringing his children there, too.
"You just felt connected to it," Olson said. "I feel sick about losing the history that we have here."
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