The story’s a well told one by now — the evolution of city clubs from “old gentlemen’s clubs” to urban oases. The drivers are equally familiar: changing demographics, differences in the way business is now conducted, the resurgence of cities, the popularity of the boutique hotel industry and increasingly more interesting dining options. City clubs had become known, as one club recently admitted overhearing about their historic club, “…the place where old people take their parents for dinner.” It was do-or-die, go-big-or-go-home time. Here’s a list of what we’re seeing — and doing — in city clubs across the country.
What’s affecting, happening and trending in city clubs:
The Seven Year Itch (to update). “Hotel lobbies change every five to seven years,” says Chambers Executive Vice President and Architect Ryan Yakel, “City clubs historically don’t change but every 15 to 20.” For young business people, especially, says Yakel, that’s just not exciting enough to hold their attention.
Transitional décor. ‘Contemporary’ changes too often, traditional risks being labeled “boring” or “stodgy.” City club interiors are adopting more transitional décor, an in between but fresh approach with staying power. Certainly, city clubs must be “edgier” than their country club counterparts.
Wired. Or, rather…not. That is, wifi is a must. So are member-facing plugs for recharging at bars, tables and in lounge areas. Clubs are also installing centralized servers to manage their technology offerings.
Dedicated work spaces. As more and more people work less and less in traditional offices, a place to work between appointments or that’s simply not the home office can be a major draw to city club membership. (And reciprocal relationships that enable business travelers to pop into a club in cities across the country with one membership make the offer even more appealing.) City club spaces are looking more and more like airport VIP lounges (see The VIP Treatment) with high end work stations, standing tables and powered chairs and tables.
Media lounges. Not sports bars, per se, but casual areas with large screen tvs, soft seating and all the accoutrement necessary to entice younger members.
City clubs that are embracing the changing landscape are “doing very well,” says Yakel. “They’re becoming relevant again,” he says. Echoes Chambers Chairman Bob Hickman, “They’re finally waking up to a new era.”