If you’re acquainted with John Berendt’s best-selling novel, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” you’re somewhat familiar with Savannah, the oldest city in the state of Georgia.

An oft-quoted excerpt from the book: “Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That’s when things happen. That’s when you find out everything you want to know.”

Indeed, social drinking seems to be an ongoing theme of the city. As the residents like to say, “If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, ‘What’s your business?’ In Macon they ask, ‘Where do you go to church?’ In Augusta they ask your grandmother’s maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is, ‘What would you like to drink?’”

Indeed, Savannah is known as “The Hostess City of the South” because of the hospitable nature of its residents. Bowling center owners from across the country will get to experience that hospitality first-hand Jan. 15-17 when Savannah plays host to the 2023 BPAA Bowling Summit, the annual mid-winter conference that blends business, networking and education between Bowl Expos.

And this year, the education line-up at Savannah’s Hyatt Regency is stellar, headlined by thought leader Sam Glenn, who will talk about how attitude changes everything. This is a can’t-miss session for a reason that will become apparent as Glenn shares his words of wisdom.

Another highlight promises to be the presentation by Jared Orton of the Savannah Bananas baseball team, who will explain the difference between attracting customers and building fans. The Bananas will play 86 games across the country between February and September (see the December issue of BCM for an in-depth look at “Banana ball”), and as 2022 drew to a close the pre-sale alert list had been capped at 250,000 people.

Other topics to be explored include the Entrepreneurial Operating System, presented by EOS implementer Robert Betzel; driving incremental bar revenue, presented by Kurt Moody; and scoring “wow” moments with customer relationship management (CRM), presented by Alissa Silverman.

Several BPAA committees will meet prior to a welcome reception on Sunday evening. On Monday, education will take center stage, joined by breakfast and lunch sessions in the exhibit area. The Summit will wrap up on Wednesday with more committee meetings, the thought-leader presentation, an industry update luncheon and a closing event at the Georgia State Railroad Museum.

Many attendees are planning an extra day or two in Savannah to soak in the charming city’s scenery, history and, yes, hospitality. It’s a place where art, period architecture, trendy boutiques and haunted stories are all set under a veil of Spanish moss. Savannah cuisine comes straight from the coast and cocktails are served at every meal (although not necessarily during the Summit).

A great place to experience an authentic taste of Savannah is The Olde Pink House, one of the city’s finest dining establishments, offering new Southern cuisine in a sophisticated yet casual setting. The restaurant is known for specialties like grilled pork tenderloin with bourbon molasses, crispy scored flounder with apricot shallot sauce, and corn bread fried oysters. Locals and visitors also are drawn to The Olde Pink House’s incredible architecture and décor, including its beautiful, quirky color — pink — which has been part of the décor for nearly 100 years.

Winter typically is mild in Savannah, although you never know when an extra layer of clothing may be required, as the early-January winter storm demonstrated. But if the weather cooperates, the Historic District (where the Summit headquarters is located) is ideal for strolling and sightseeing.

The Hyatt Regency provides direct access to cobblestoned River Street, home to more than 75 boutiques, galleries, artists’ studios, restaurants and pubs, all of which are housed in one-time cotton warehouses. River Street is an ideal spot for relaxing by the water and ship watching as dozens of giant container ships pass by daily. Among the hotel’s amenities is an outdoor patio overlooking the Savannah River.

It also pays to venture “inland” from the hotel and river to experience Savannah’s parks and pedestrian-friendly streets. The Historic District is compact and worth a few hours of your time, weather permitting.

And should you happen to feel guilty about “having one more drink,” as suggested in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” you could always seek forgiveness by visiting the American Prohibition Museum, the only museum in the United States dedicated to the history of the 18th amendment. (Warning: In true Savannah style, the museum serves craft cocktails at its in-house speakeasy.)

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