Longtime Chicago Private Club Closing, Selling Building

A Chicago club established in 1869 has been forced to close its doors and put the venue up for sale.

The Standard Club, founded by leaders in the Jewish community when other clubs refused to admit them, will close down on May 1 after a long struggle with finances. The 151-year-old club has reportedly faced a decline in members, revenue loss, and a lawsuit over a past-due bill for around $43,000.

In 2009 the club revealed it had around 1,000 members – half of its peak numbers. Regular dues are $395 per month.

Members told Crain’s the club has cut personnel, trimmed its menu, and ended additional options such as a men’s grill on the second floor of the building in recent years.

Its current venue in the Loop at 320 S. Plymouth Court was originally built in the 1920s and was designed by architect Albert Kahn. The organization claims the building itself is worth $15 million despite needing significant renovation, while just its artwork is valued by the concern at an additional $1 million.

A member letter sent by the club’s board in December 2019 asked those involved to help pay its bills. The board asked for additional donations to “cover existing deficits, payables and near-term operations while we carefully explore a series of strategic options for the club, including but not limited to, the sale of assets.”

On its website, the club offers fine dining, private dining, conference rooms, guest rooms, and health and fitness facilities. In recent months it has even transformed its fine dining room into a boxing ring.

The Standard Club notes on its website that “From the day of its founding, The Standard Club and its members have endeavored to fulfill the promise expressed in the Club’s name, as a model, example or criterion. The vision of our founders was to create a membership of leaders who shared a common bond of charitable, social and civic responsibility.”

A handful of private clubs, like the Standard Club, opened in the late 1800s and are known for shaping the city into what it is now.

Prominent members of Chicago’s intelligentsia, well-off merchant class, and arts communities supported and joined these clubs and helped organize the World Fair of 1893, fought for the ordinance that still protects the lakefront from development now, and promoted the Plan for Chicago, created by Daniel Burnham, an architect who was also a member at many private venues.

The University Club of Chicago, The Cliff Dwellers, and The Union League are just some of the traditional clubs the city has seen help create traditional buildings with fine architecture and paneled wood interiors.

Private clubs are most commonly held in large, historic buildings with leather chairs and chandeliers. But many of these landmark buildings in the city are now facing financial difficulty.

Some of these buildings in Chicago’s historic Loop have now been converted into great Chicago hotels– including the London Guarantee & Accident Building (LondonHouse hotel), Carbide & Carbon Building (St. Jane Hotel), and the Roanoke Building (Marriott Residence Inn).

The Standard Club still has its fair share of admirers, so only time will tell what the future holds for this building.

On its Facebook page, one reviewer wrote: “My folks take the grandchildren and they love it. Super friendly staff and great food and service. Love seeing Blanca when there. She is excellent. Large rooms. The Valentine’s dinner was a hit. My son said he had never had a better steak!”

Another wrote, “What a beautiful setting! Gorgeous spaces, genuinely courteous staff and a delicious meal with dessert. The wait staff even took special care to serve the women and girls, the young boys and lastly the men in such a respectful way.”

“Mostly I appreciate the Standard Club hosting the combined Passover and Holy Family event symbolizing the acceptance and respect we hope to exemplify in each of our daily lives! I hope to return soon.”

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