Chicago’s elite Standard Club to close May 1

The 150-year-old organization asked members for a bailout late last year.

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The Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Ct.

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The Standard Club, a gathering place for leading members of Chicago business for 150 years, will be closing May 1 but could reopen elsewhere, according to a statement from its general manager late Wednesday.

With a 13-story building at 320 S. Plymouth Ct., the club has faced escalating financial trouble and late last year asked its wealthy membership to provide extra cash to pay bills.

A statement from General Manager Garth Walker said, “The club has recently faced challenging business circumstances similar to those that have faced many urban private clubs in terms of membership, usage and revenue. The board has come to the very difficult decision that club operations are no longer sustainable.”

Walker wrote that the board has retained real-estate brokerage CBRE to market all or parts of the building for sale. He said the club hopes to find a partner for a “synergistic business relationship”

He added, “We expect that there will be a transition period and our hope is eventually a new home for a new type of club that continues to reflect our shared traditions, values, and camaraderie. We extend our appreciation to our loyal staff for their contributions to our club community over the years, and to our membership for their ongoing support during this transition.” Walker was not available for further comment.

When it asked members for additional support last year, it told them in a letter that the club faces “an aging infrastructure and has some significant capital needs.” The extra assessments were $1,650 for life members, $3,350 for premium members under age 40 and $5,000 for those over 40.

The club has long been a draw for Jewish members. The lineage dates from decades past when other private clubs barred Jews from joining. The discriminatory policies, which included a ban on women, have ended, but it still takes money and connections to join such groups, such as the University Club or the Union League Club of Chicago. They generally offer restaurants, athletic facilities, meeting and banquet space and rooms for overnight stays.

All have adapted to aging demographics and changing styles for dining and entertaining. With three-martini lunches, heavy meals and generous expense accounts out of favor, the clubs have revised menus, redesigned facilities, reduced membership dues for younger people and planned new programs.

A prominent casualty was the Chicago Athletic Association, which closed in 2007, although its facility at 12 S. Michigan has been turned into a posh and popular hotel. A similar fate could await the Standard Club’s building, which dates from 1926.

Standard Club members have been active in numerous charities and were instrumental in the founding and growth of such institutions as the city’s museums, private universities, Lincoln Park Zoo and others.

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