The Town Club Story
“A club which embraced the Covid challenge with a total remake to make changes”
Back in the fall of last year, well before Covid-19 was on its radar screen, the Milwaukee neighborhood club was facing a membership struggle, deteriorating facilities, lack of funds for both operations and even small capital projects. The Board was watching o once very viable 119 year old club slip away as its membership got older and older. So well before Covid-19 the board was planning a course of action with changing course by involving members in the process by asking them what they wanted their club to be. Then the Board and management developed a strategic plan which laid out the process based on a slight revision of the club’s original mission. And more importantly the strategic plan spelled out how to achieve it.
Now saying what the club should do and actually doing it are two very different things. Then along came Covid-19 in March, and instead of letting it be the death knell of the club, they (The Board and Manager Larry Marx) made it become the opportunity to refocus the club on achieving the strategic goals now rather than over years. And while the General Milwaukee Community was proposing shutting down all swimming pools this summer, The Town Club worked with the health departments to plan a way to open them. The club restricted its dining program by providing up to 200 carry-out dinners, making minor facility changes, restructured the management team and restoring the pride in membership. But the real opportunity for the club came when the Covid pandemic forced decisions that may never have happened.
So with the blessing of the Milwaukee North Shore Health Department, The Town Club reopened all services and facilities on May 25th, but within new restrictions. Restaurant capacity was cut back to 50% of original capacity, pool use cut back to 25% original capacity and racquet sports are under strict social distancing and sanitation guidelines. The club is making it very clear that reopening is a privilege and for members to be responsible in their actions. An interesting legal protection clause the club is making clear is notifying members of the following: “Your decision to utilize the club’s facilities can never be completely risk free and by using the club’s facilities, you are making a decision to assume the risk.” Basic rules of operation are being followed are:
• Reservations are required for all club use
• No guests allowed
• Social distancing is required
• Curbside to go food offering will be continued in addition to clubhouse and terrace dining
Helping Members To Follow Rules
To help members in learning the new summer rules and requirements, the club’s website had provided detailed information on the following
• Health and safety information
• Club dining, menus, specials, bar and curbside
• Pool usage rules and safety
• Tennis usage, rules and safety
In closing, I hope you find this good example of a club with it’s reopening procedures helpful to you.
Bill McMahon Sr., AIA, OAA
About Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA
Bill is a strategic, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 2,000 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. McMahon Group provides a unique approach to developing club facility projects first establishing design and financial feasibility so membership approval is achieved. Thereafter final design and construction firms are selected to build the member approved project.
Mr. McMahon is unique among club consultants in providing an integrated strategic, financial and architectural approach to solving club problems. His personal involvement with his own clubs in St. Louis (serving in the roles of president, board member and committee member) has allowed him to bring unparalleled experience to each client. Mr. McMahon’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Racquet Club Ladue (St. Louis), University Club of St. Louis, Spring Lake Yacht Club (Michigan) and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.
Mr. McMahon is a graduate of Washington University School of Architecture in St. Louis and holds architecture licenses in 44 U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. He is a featured author in industry publications and a featured speaker at the annual conferences of the Club Managers Association of America, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the National Club Association and the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals. He serves as a visiting lecturer at continuing education sessions offered by regional CMAA chapters and at Michigan State University. Bill is a co-author of McMahon Club Trends®, the comprehensive research reports on strategic issues facing private clubs published with the National Club Association. He is also founder of the Excellence in Club Management Award.
Mr. McMahon is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Club Association. He is a former president of the Missouri Council of Architects, AIA and has served on various charitable boards in the St. Louis area.