““When I made the film The Invention of Lying, they gave me a private jet for getting back and forth between New York and London. I thought, ‘I will never use it’ but I ended up using it every weekend. You turn up, right, and the airport is completely empty. I mean, there’s just someone at the desk and then the pilot, who says, ‘Are you ready to go?’ and you say, ‘Don’t you want to see my passport?’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I’d better.’” ”
For a home away from home, you can't beat City Clubs
Savvy business jet travelers well know and appreciate the speed, security, convenience and time-saving benefits of private air travel. But how can you prolong the experience after you arrive at your destination? Where can you arrange a discreet meeting with the chairman of the company you've been wooing as an investment partner? Sometimes the bar at a four-star hotel, as nice as it may be, just won't cut it. You may need something special-a private club where the doorman greets you by name and the waiter has your favorite wine waiting, perfectly chilled, in a quiet lounge that's the ideal place to seal the deal.
You'll find private clubs in virtually every major metropolitan area in the U.S. Some of the most exclusive ones-including the Century and Metropolitan clubs in Manhattan, the Capital City Club in Atlanta, the University Club of Chicago and the Columbia Club in Indianapolis-have been around for more than 100 years. Others, like the Tower Club in Vienna, Va.-the Washington, D.C. area's information-technology hotbed during the dot-com boom-opened more recently and draw from a younger membership base. As a bonus of membership, you'll likely also be able to use clubs in other cities around the country.
Benefits of Membership
People join such clubs for a variety of reasons. "Some want a place to network, some want private meeting space, some use the club as a virtual office and many use it to entertain current or potential clients," said Michele Bisceglie, membership director at the City Club of Washington [D.C.].
Many clubs offer dramatic views. The Metropolitan Club in Chicago is on the 66th floor of the Sears Tower, not on the top floor, so that clouds and fog less frequently obstruct the view. The University Club of Chicago overlooks Lake Michigan. The Berkeley City Club in California-which was founded in 1927 and is on the National Register of Historic Places- offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge. And the City Club of Dallas, which opened in 1918, has been on the 69th floor of the Bank of America Plaza since 1988. Club general manager Nancy Batton said its panoramic view of downtown Dallas is one of its biggest attractions.
Social-networking and entertainment activities attract members to many clubs. The City Club of Washington offers cooking classes, theme parties and wine-tasting events, for example, while the Berkeley City Club features book discussions, Friday afternoon tea and guest lecturers. And at clubs that are part of the giant ClubCorp chain, members can often buy tickets to sold-out sporting events, plays and concerts, because many of these facilities own private suites or boxes at theaters and arenas. ClubCorp can also arrange for charter air service to and from a show through its partnership with air charter firm Sentient.
Many clubs offer athletic facilities. The University Club of Washington, D.C., has a "great" gym, said Brent Kynoch, a private pilot who owns an environmental engineering firm in Bethesda, Md. Kynoch, who flies a single-engine Cessna airplane for business and pleasure and was a member of the club from 1989 to 2000, said, "There was a social and business aspect to it that doesn't exist in the places I go here in Bethesda."
The monthly dues were only slightly more than he had been paying for a separate gym membership, Kynoch said, and the club offered a nice restaurant for hosting business meetings. He and his wife even got engaged and later had their wedding reception there. Kynoch resigned his membership after the birth of his second child, although he said the club does provide programs for families. "I used to go there after work, work out, have dinner with some buddies and stay there until 9 or 9:30, but once we had children it wasn't fair."
Fine dining in a private environment draws members to the clubs as well. City Club of Dallas offers a popular weekday lunch, featuring the cuisine of local French chef Gerard Rousset, who operated one of the city's finest French restaurants, Chez Gerard, for many years. Members undoubtedly appreciate the fact that, as club manager Nancy Batton said, "Nobody can walk in off the street to have lunch here."
Perhaps the single greatest attraction of the clubs, however, is that they commonly offer reciprocal-usage agreements, allowing a member of one to enjoy the services of others. The City Club of Washington, which is part of the ClubCorp chain, provides members with access to more than 200 of its own clubs, resorts and golf courses worldwide, including Pinehurst in North Carolina and The Homestead resort in Virginia.
Kynoch said he often stayed overnight at clubs affiliated with his in New York, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco when traveling on business. "The rooms are less expensive than staying at a major hotel and you get treated like a club member," he commented. "The staff is a little more attentive to your needs. I could put up a business associate there for $165 a night instead of something more on the order of $250 or $300. For the business traveler, it's well worth it. To pull into a city and walk into a place where you feel like you belonged is a nice warm feeling."